SIKESTON -- The federal Surface Transportation Board "has taken action that positively impacts" Union Pacific's decision to increase train traffic through Sikeston and communities between Sikeston and Rockview, according to a UP spokesman.
"Basically, we're pleased that the Surface Transportation Board approved one half of the track swap between Burlington Northern and Union Pacific," said James Barnes, director of media information for the Union Pacific Railroad.
According to the STB's decision document, the board decided on June 7 to approve the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company's acquisition of approximately 25 miles of Union Pacific Railroad Company's rail line between Union, Colo., and Sterling, Colo. Under an agreement between UP and BNSF, UP seeks to exchange the Colorado track for 23.7 miles of track between Rockview and Sikeston.
The document notes this transfer "will help promote a safe and efficient rail transportation system, foster sound economic conditions, and encourage efficient management."
Also included in this decision is the following statement: "This action will not significantly affect either the quality of the human environment or the conservation of energy resources."
Christopher D. Peterson, director of government affairs and corporate relations for the Union Pacific Railroad, stated during a June 1 interview related to the impending decision by the STB on the track swap that "their primary view will be on the efficiency of the rail network" and that "environmental issues," which is how the STB and rail industry refer to the impact on local communities, will only be a secondary consideration.
BNSF's acquisition of the Colorado track from UP didn't meet the standards needed for an environmental review process by STP, however, the Rockview-
Sikeston tracks UP seeks from BNSF does. Approval is still needed from the STB for UP's acquisition of that track.
BNSF's acquisition didn't require an environment review because train traffic won't increase in the area affected in Colorado. The Rockview-to-Sikeston line will increase on that line 10 to 11 trains per day, triggering the environment review process. Railroad officials have said the increase in trains could go higher if market forces dictate.
The increase in traffic has caused concerns with local leaders, who are recommending UP use a northern route.
According to the June 7 decision document, BNSF and UP have "agreed on terms for a property exchange whereby UP will transfer this line to BNSF, while BNSF will transfer its Rockview-Sikeston, MO rail line to UP."
This section is footnoted, however, to clarify that "UP's proposed acquisition of the Rockview-Sikeston, MO, rail line is not involved in this proceeding. That proposal is pending in the STB Finance Docket No. 34672, Union Pacific Railroad Company -- Acquisition and Operation Exemption -- Line of BNSF Railway Company, filed March 14, 2005."
A full text of the decision document is available at http://www.stb.dot.gov/decisions/reading...
Some information for this story was provided by the Southeast Missourian.