Frequently Asked Questions



What is the Great Lakes Basin Railroad?


The Great Lakes Basin Railroad proposes to construct a new railroad line around the metropolitan Chicago area. The purpose of the new railroad is to expedite freight movements across the nation and to provide additional capacity for growing railroad traffic.


How will this project benefit the growth and development of the surrounding community?


  • Chicago is the largest freight railroad hub, in terms of volume of movements and tonnage, in the world. The major eastern, western and Canadian rail systems meet in Chicago and exchange a huge volume of freight shipments, many of which are not destined for Chicago.

  • Rail freight shipments through Chicago have been growing and are projected to continue to grow for decades into the future, but the railroad lines in Chicago are hemmed in by intense urban development. It isn’t practical to build more tracks through the city to carry this growing traffic.

  • GLBR will provide new capacity by building a new railroad line linking the western, eastern and Canadian rail carriers, keeping shipments that don’t need to go through Chicago out of Chicago. This, in turn, will create more room for future growth of rail traffic to and from Chicago itself.

  • Additional rail capacity can take trucks off the road, which reduces wear and tear on pavement, carbon emissions and traffic congestion.

  • GLBR will provide 350 to 450 permanent new jobs and support the forecasted growth of the counties surrounding the Chicago area.


What routes are being considered for the rail extension, and has the GLBR considered all the alternatives?


  • GLBR’s proposed route is intended to accomplish two goals:

    • Provide connections to all Class 1 railroad lines and short line railroads serving the Chicago area.

    • Provide a one to two mile safety buffer zone between the new railroad and towns along the proposed route.

  • The precise alignment of the railroad has not been determined.  GLB plans to develop a more specific alignment, taking into account grades, curvature and approaches for major river crossings.  This will become the preferred alternative for the required environmental review, discussed below.  Alternative routes for part or all of the project will be considered during the environmental review discussed below.



What about impacts on the community such as property values, water and air quality and noise impacts?


  • GLBR is committed to being a good neighbor and a positive contributor to the economy of the counties on its route. Our goal is to facilitate economic growth with minimal effects on the environment and local residents. While the new railroad will occupy land that currently is devoted to agricultural and other uses, we intend to avoid settled areas and minimize the railroad’s impact on the way area residents live their lives today.

  • GLBR intends to construct grade-separated crossings with other rail lines and major highways to minimize delays to existing rail and road traffic. We are also working with area fire departments to determine required road access they require for providing emergency response services to communities adjacent to the GLBR.


How will the potential environmental impacts of the new railroad be evaluated?


  • Through the development of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) by the Surface Transportation Board (STB), the federal agency that regulates the railroad industry.

  • An EIS is an independent federal review and detailed analysis of the project that is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). It is intended to inform both the public and governmental agencies about the project’s potential environmental impacts before that project is permitted or approved.

  • The process required by NEPA is extensive and thorough, taking approximately 24 months from start to finish.

  • In preparing the EIS, the STB will study a comprehensive list of impact categories, including:

    • safety

    • land use

    • recreation

    • biological and water resources

    • aesthetic

    • air quality

    • energy resources

    • navigation


During this process, the STB and cooperating agencies will:

  • Conduct agency and public scoping meetings

  • Issue a final scoping report identifying the range of actions, alternatives and impacts to be considered in the EIS

  • Prepare and issue the Draft EIS

  • Accept public comments and hold public meetings on the Draft EIS

  • Prepare and issue the Final EIS

  • Issue Records of Decision

  • More detailed information regarding potential environmental effects will be available after the Draft EIS is released. Out of respect for the STB and the federal process, GLB prefers not to comment about each of these impact categories until the STB releases the Draft EIS. At that time, public meetings will be held to provide an opportunity for interested persons to register their comments and concerns.


How did GLBR develop the traffic projections and other data it is providing to the STB?


  • Train traffic projections are a necessary step in planning for any railroad project, in part because they determine the potential environmental effects of the project. GLB considered existing railroad freight traffic and economic and population growth projections in studies sponsored by private and government agencies. Future traffic projections are being developed from this data.

  • Ultimately, the number of trains and volume of rail shipments that may move via GLB will be dynamic and fluid, influenced by a variety of factors including regional and global market conditions, the opening (or closing) of foreign export/import markets, weather conditions, value of the US dollar verses foreign currencies, and competition with other routes and gateways such as St. Louis and Memphis. Obviously, future traffic is not guaranteed and could be lower, or higher, than GLB’s projections.


When will GLBT begin acquiring property for the project?


It is anticipated that no property will be acquired for the project until the environmental review process is completed and the STB issues a decision authorizing construction.  As stated above, the environmental review is expected to take about 24 months, and the STB is expected to issue its decision after that.


Where can I find the latest information about the Great Lakes Basin Railroad Project?


  • Updated information will be posted frequently on the project website sponsored by the STB.

  • Office of Environmental Analysis (OEA) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) website.


  • You can also find information here on our website.


How will the proposed railroad project be financed?


The railroad will be privately financed. There will be no government funding required to build this project.

Great Lakes Basin Transportation, Inc.

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