CAMANCHE, Iowa — Davenport, Bettendorf and Muscatine have already voted to approve the millions of dollars in settlement money offered to them by the Canadian Pacific Railway as part of its proposed merger with Kansas City Southern. Approval of the settlement money also means the cities approve of the two railways' plans to merge.
Camanche has yet to vote on the merger. The city was offered $200,000 to close two of its seven crossings, and $300,000 if it closed three. The city countered, asking for $2.5 million.
City Administrator Andrew Kida said the city proposed using the $2.5 million to keep all seven crossings open, while also installing quiet zones, crossing monitors, such as cameras for emergency services to see if crossings are blocked by a train, an overpass, additional emergency equipment and funding for safety exercises.
Camanche and the railways have not been able to come to an agreement on the amount. Kida said as of Aug. 16, a representative with Canadian Pacific indicated the company would not move from its position.
Camanche City Council hosted a meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 23 to gather input from the public about the merger.
In front of a packed room, dozens of people spoke out against it.
"Camanche is finally in a position where people want to move here, invest in themselves and their homes and provide the sense of community that Camanche is known for, but it's now being threatened by a merger that benefits no one but the railroad executives," Sarah Smith said.
Many are worried about the impact of blocked crossings. The span of the seven crossings in Camanche is one mile, and according to the city, there are 409 households along that one-mile span to the east of the tracks and to the west of the Mississippi River. When the train is blocking the crossings, it's also blocking those residents' access to the rest of the town.
The city estimates approximately 1,200 people live in those homes.
That's a concern for residents if emergency service vehicles can't reach those homes.
"How do we get people to the help that they need?" Alice Srp asked.
Fire Chief Dave Schutte said it's a concern for him.
"Nothing scares me more than the trains are going to be twice as long and three times as frequent," Schutte said. "I think that the railroad needs to have the liability when emergencies are delayed and ultimately hold them accountable if these delays result in harm or damages, god forbid, to some of our citizens... We'll do everything we can to continue the services we provide, but we can't jump a train."
Kida said City Council will most likely vote on the merger during one of its meetings in September.
The ultimate approval of the merger lies with the Surface Transportation Board, which is currently conducting a review of its impact on the city and its residents, business competition, economic issues and the environment.
If approved, the merger would take effect in 2027.