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“So, how often do the trains go by?” Jake Blues asked while staring out the window of a one-room apartment at a steady stream of elevated trains crisscrossing on opposite tracks. “So often, you won’t even notice!” Elwood Blues answered. – The Blues Brothers, 1980 Denise Bulat laughed out loud upon hearing those classic lines from the Blues Brothers movie before turning serious again. “But, you know, that’s not funny in real life,” deadpanned the long-time Bi-State Regional Commission executive director. No joking matter is the circumstances in which Quad Cities area municipalities soon could find themselves all along eastern Iowa’s Mississippi riverfront from Clinton to Muscatine. The unfunny punchline is a fitting one for the daily tripling of train traffic planned on the Canadian Pacific (CP) line from Sabula, Iowa, north of Clinton, through the Quad Cities and Muscatine on the way south to Kansas City. The increasing frequency of trains – from eight to 24 or more a day – is the expected byproduct of two of the seven largest railroad companies in North America merging. The CP announced in late October its intent to acquire the rival Kansas City Southern (KCS). The length of the trains also could become larger than those now typically needing an average of four to five minutes to pass a local crossing, community leaders warn. Both the longer delays and higher volume have local city officials concerned with issues ranging from public safety to environmental problems. However, the potential economic impacts might be second to any real human costs, local officials worry, especially if police, fire, or medical responders are prevented by a train from answering an emergency call on the other side of the tracks in a timely fashion. “I don’t have anything against the railroads wanting to do business, and doing it better,” said Bettendorf Mayor Bob Gallagher, who has been a vocal leader on the issue on the region’s behalf. “But there will be an impact on the cities and towns, and there are many layers and degrees to consider of how we are going to make this work. So, we’re just wanting to work with our friends at CP.” Mr. Gallagher has banded city leaders together up and down the river, believing there is strength in numbers, rather than allowing the railroad to “divide and conquer” in negotiations that have begun. So far, the communities and railway have met three times. Some of the Quad Cities communities, including Davenport and Bettendorf, have received mitigation offers from CP. Approval for the railway merger must first come from the Surface Transportation Board (STB), the bipartisan federal regulator which ensures that deals fit competitively – and avoid creating a monopoly. The STB also began an investigation into the many municipal concerns after releasing an Environmental Impact Statement in late February. When the process wraps up, which is expected as soon as this fall, the STB could order the expanded CP to fully or partially fund the measures needed to lessen the possible impacts. The STB already has announced a five-year period to review those decisions in case more changes are necessary. Ms. Bulat agrees with Mr. Gallagher that the merger is likely to happen – so the focus is on mitigation efforts such as Quiet Zones in neighborhoods and business districts; better safety measures at train crossings; and overpasses above the tracks to help alleviate vehicle and pedestrian traffic disruptions. “All of that should be funded by the railroad and not by the public,” if it’s found to be necessary by the STB, Ms. Bulat said. “So I’m hopeful that some of those kinds of mitigation measures will be provided.” She noted that nearly every large city in the area has economic development projects in limbo because of the railway changes. Smaller towns, such as Princeton and Buffalo, also are adversely affected by a steady stream of trains “effectively cutting their communities in half,” Ms. Bulat added. “For everybody we don’t know what the full ramifications will be.” Some impacted Iowa cities and towns also have contacted their congressional delegation to help apply pressure. Mr. Gallagher said that leaders have been able to talk with the staffs of Iowa U.S. Senators Joni Ernst and Charles Grassley and U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks. “Hopefully, they can exert some pressure,” he added. “There were some demands made of CP from the Chicago suburbs who banded together recently, and the number is huge,” Mr. Gallagher said. “But this is something that’s flown under the radar for most people who live here, so I’ve been trying to bring some attention to it and talking to anyone who will listen.” Indeed, Ms. Bulat said one necessary factor still is missing: pressure from the local business community. “In fact, one of the mayors asked me, ‘Do you know if our businesses are getting this information directly?’” she said, noting that the public can access project updates and sign up for a newsletter at https://www.cp-kcsmergereis.com. “I definitely agree that businesses should be getting direct communications also, so they certainly know what’s going on,” she added.