Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
WASHINGTON — City council members voted to table action on a counteroffer from Canadian Pacific railway Tuesday night.
The item is one of several municipal agreements sought by the railroad across the country, as the company hopes to complete a merger with Kansas City Southern. The merger would create the first railroad from Canada to Mexico, but would drastically increase train traffic through parts of Iowa, and thus relies on cooperation from impacted communities.
The railroad’s newest proposal offers the following to the city of Washington:
- A $200,000 cash contribution, for use as the city sees fit
- Payments of $225,000 per railroad crossing the city agrees to close
- A $55,000 contribution for a quiet zone study
- Waived costs for the removal of crossing surfaces, signals and signs at any crossing the city agrees to close
Mayor Jaron Rosien said he was open to the railroad’s latest pitch, which would combine with benefits promised by the state for closing crossings.
“Our counter included a $1.75 million number if we were to close three crossings, in this … we land at $1.23 million,” he said. “I feel good about the counter made by CP. I would not recommend rejecting it … compared to other communities, I think it is similar if not a little better, which accommodates for the impact that we have in Washington.”
The discussion came just over a month after the city made its own counteroffer, asking for the following:
- Payments of $250,000 for each crossing the city agreed to close
- Waived costs for expenses to close crossings
- $1.75 million for the construction of quiet zones
While some city officials voiced support for the railroad’s proposal, Council Member Elaine Moore said she had concerns. While first responders have access to fire-suppressing foam for hazardous material spills, she said specialized equipment to transport it might be lacking.
“My understanding is we don’t have a trailer to move the material to a site of a hazard,” she said. “I’d like to get more information from Chief DeLong … I just would really like to know, if it’s a real heavy expense but we need to have it (and) cost wise, if it’s our responsibility, or if it’s something that the railroad can help us with.”
Moore said she wasn’t comfortable accepting the counteroffer without first consulting fire officials. While other council members voiced willingness to move forward, Rosien urged them to table action, a move they agreed to unanimously after a motion to accept the offer failed for lack of a second.
“I’m not under the impression that the offer is jeopardized by waiting two weeks to accept it,” Rosien said. “I’d prefer that we accept (the) offer with a unanimous vote and not a split vote. I think it would be accepted tonight … but for something of this magnitude, I’d like us to all be on the same page.”
The rest of the discussion diverged from items in the counteroffer, but did return widespread community concerns to the spotlight.
Council Member Steve Gault said hazardous materials transported by the railroad, would be more likely to spill as Washington’s projected rail traffic climbs from an average of 4.3 to 19.7 trains per day if the merger goes through.
“You are raising our chances of having a large … mess in our neighborhood because of the amount of train traffic,” he said. “There’s a lot of people scared that the percentages are going to catch us sooner or later.”
CP representative Larry Lloyd said the risk was low given the company’s safety record, and that the railroad would help train first responders in hazardous operations.
“The thing that makes the railroad the safest is putting money in the rail line,” he said. “The more trains you run, the more maintenance has to go into that line, the more inspections that happen as part of that, so I think those are all things that will increase the safety of that rail line, not reduce it.”