[Great Lakes founder Frank] Patton claims his Great Lakes Basin Belt Railroad — which would run from Mazon, Ill., to Kingsbury, Ind., with at least two initial tracks — would slash at least 16 hours from the current trip through Chicago while keeping potentially hazardous oil train traffic away from the most densely populated areas.To make the project work, however, the railroads interchanging cars or trains through Chicago must agree to a division with Great Lakes Basin.
He isn’t the first one to have floated the idea for a bypass, and his plan mirrors the 50-mile Illiana Expressway project to streamline highway traffic between Illinois and Indiana (Greenwire, July 25, 2013). Patton thinks the time is right for a rail version, given tighter crude-by-rail routing rules and this year’s record, train-snarling snowfall that has left agricultural shipments weeks behind schedule (EnergyWire, March 20).
“There isn’t enough business for any single railroad to justify it economically,” [Patton] said. “You have to have at least two, or really three or four [railroads] using it — and because of the anti-trust laws and the competitive nature between the independent Class I railroads, there’s no way that they could get together and do this.”That is, until the western and eastern systems see the wisdom of merging. (Or not: Canadian Pacific and CSX broke off merger negotiations recently.)
There's a map of the initial proposal in a May 2013 article from Crain's Chicago Business. Extend the line further to the northwest, so as to connect with all the trunk lines entering Chicago, and you do have the original Chicago Milwaukee and Gary, which perhaps The Milwaukee Road could have used to bypass Chicago and interchange with the eastern trunk lines somewhere along the Southeastern, if the Pacific Coast Extension ever generated enough traffic, and if the eastern trunk lines would consent to short-hauling themselves to Terre Haute rather than St. Louis or Chicago.