CN shifts rail jobs from south suburbs to Gary

August 4, 2011

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(AP/Rogelio Solis)
CN is moving rail jobs from Illinois to Northwest Indiana.

One of the nation’s largest railroad companies is expanding in Northwest Indiana, a shift that comes at the expense of rail jobs in Illinois. CN announced Wednesday that it will invest $165 million to expand the Kirk Rail Yard in rail in Gary, Indiana, over the next three years. The company wants the yard to handle more train traffic. CN also announced it will relocate a locomotive repair shop from Homewood, Illinois, to Gary.

Company spokesman Patrick Waldron says the state of Indiana, the Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority and the city of Gary tipped the balance by coming through with tax incentives and grants.

“We had some choices to consider and a decision to make,” Waldron said. “During the course of that, the state of Indiana stepped forward to partner with CN in this sizable new investment and that’s what we’re moving forward with today.”

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced the deal Wednesday morning.

“Whether its bringing dollars back from overseas or from right next door, finding new investments and jobs is always job one for us,” Daniels said in a press release. “Today, we see a product of that effort as one of the leaders of the rail industry chooses Indiana’s lower-cost, business-friendly climate and, best of all, chooses Northwest Indiana for its new expansion.”

CN acquired the 350-acre Kirk Rail Yard, on Gary’s northwest side near U.S. Steel Co., as part of its purchase of the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railway in 2009.

The project will increase Kirk Yard’s processing capacity to 2,500 cars per day from 1,500.

The Kirk Yard project will allow CN to handle longer, more efficient trains, improve interchange with other railroads, and consolidate the company’s switching operations in the Chicago area at a single, primary yard.

Waldron says the rail yard expansion in Gary may reduce train delays in south suburban areas such as Homewood, East Hazel Crest, Hawthorne, and the Glenn Yard near Summit. He predicts it might help ease congestion near Schiller Park, near O’Hare International Airport. CN operates sizeable satellite rail yards there.

“Those various locations will see some reduced rail operations which will be moving over the next few years to Kirk Yard,” Waldron said.