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Bettendorf city, business leaders voice concern with proposed train merger

The proposed merger between the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railways would nearly triple the number of trains chugging through Bettendorf.

BETTENDORF, Iowa — A proposed merger between the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railways could create more challenges for the Iowa Quad Cities.

In that proposal, train traffic would nearly triple, according to the interactive map available on the proposal's website.

Bettendorf has several crossings through downtown, but only one has an overpass, allowing drivers access to the Isle of Capri area.

The proposed merger would potentially limit access to certain areas in town, Mayor Bob Gallagher said. That has both city and business leaders feeling frustrated.

"It affects everybody down here," Vicky Goettsch said.

At H&H Towing in Bettendorf, business is always on the move. 

Goettsch and her employees only have two ways to cross the train tracks when either leaving or returning to the business.

"They had a really bad breakdown about a month or so ago and it shut both entrances down for over an hour," Goettsch said.

In those cases, business stops.

"Extra traffic may be a problem," Goettsch said.

The proposed merger between the two railways would increase train traffic nearly three-fold by 2027.

"Without the ability to cross the railroad to get to some of the issues that may happen in our industrial park or some of the houses, we will be completely cut off from providing that service," Gallagher said.

Gallagher said the wait times at crossings would increase, too.

"We can do the math on the minutes, right, but they're also talking about the ability to double the size of the train," Gallagher said.

Andy Cummings, Canadian Pacific Manager, explained the sizes will range from bulk trains that stretch 6,200 to 7,600 feet, and intermodal and manifest trains reaching 10,000 feet. The current average train sizes are just under 8,000 feet.

Credit: Surface Transportation Board

Currently, trains travel through Bettendorf for about 49 minutes each day, Gallagher said. With this merger, that time could increase to nearly two and a half hours.

"If we have to wait two and a half hours to put a boat in at Leach Park or access those elevators, they become superfluous. Right, we need to have a way to get there," Gallagher said, if a train is delayed or stopped on the tracks.

With more train traffic comes concerns about more accidents.

"In the past 18 months, we've had two train derailments, one in LeClaire and one in Davenport," Gallagher said. "And if those are carrying hazardous materials, we have real problems."

Gallagher also said he was concerned about the impacts this merger may have on the downtown area, especially with the excitement behind the Interstate 74 bridge project.

"The celebration of connectivity of our downtown to the river that we’ve been planning for decades to create and we’re on our way to seeing it separated by the increase in rail traffic," Gallagher said. "So, that frustration level has risen."

Gallagher is not opposed to rail traffic rolling through Bettendorf but is also concerned about the economic impacts this merger may allow.

"The problem is these train's don't bring an economic benefit," Gallagher said. "They don't stop here there's no tourism."

A possible solution, Gallagher said, involves compromise from Canadian Pacific as well as using federal funding to create new overpasses at crossings. This would allow regular access for business owners, employees, homeowners and first responders.

Another solution could involve creating "quiet zones" for the trains, which would limit noise

"As long as we can get in and out, that wouldn't be a problem," Goettsch said.

It is a solution that could keep business moving.

The next step in the proposal includes an environmental impact study. That study looks into factors including public safety, air quality and land use.

You can read more about the proposal here.

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