By Railfan & Railroad
CHICAGO — The U.S. Surface Transportation Board has declined to resolve a dispute between Metra and Union Pacific about the future of three commuter lines out of Chicago. The federal board announced its decision to stay on the sidelines on Aug. 6.
Late last year, UP sued Metra in an effort to get out of operating commuter trains in the Chicago area. UP currently operates commuter trains for Metra on three lines, the North Line to Kenosha, Wis., the West Line to Elburn, Ill., and the Northwest Line to McHenry and Harvard, Ill. The freight railroad absorbed the operations when it took over the Chicago & North Western back in 1995 and is paid approximately $100 million annually to do so. Metra states that UP has a common carrier obligation to operate the trains.
The commuter railroad has said in court documents that UP is trying to “gain leverage” in negotiations and that if the freight railroad had a legitimate issue it would go to the STB. The UP has stated it is losing money on the operation and but that it would continue to allow Metra to use its tracks.
In July, Metra asked the STB to resolve the issue. Two weeks later, on Aug. 6, the STB decided it would let the U.S. District Court sort out the issue. In its decision, the STB noted that UP has vowed to “maintain the status quo” until the courts have made a ruling. It did leave the door open for further board action should the court deem it necessary. The board requested that it be informed of any court ruling regarding the matter as soon as possible.