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The federal Surface Transportation Board convened the first of at least three days of public hearings in Washington, D.C., over the proposed merger between the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railroads on Wednesday, Sept. 28. The board heard from the railroads, who said the merger would improve competition, create jobs, drive economic growth and have a positive impact on the environment by taking thousands of trucks off the road. The independent board also heard from a range of critics from some of the cities and towns that will be affected by the merger, including former Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba. In his remarks, Mr. Gluba warned the merger will endanger public safety because of the threat of derailments in heavily populated areas like Davenport’s riverfront. He also cited the city’s investment on the levee, which he noted hosts concerts, minor league baseball games and a farmer’s market. “The merger will cause irrevocable damage to the very fabric of the small towns and cities from Canada to Mexico. It will jeopardize the lives of thousands of people in the United States,” Mr. Gluba said at the hearing, which was livestreamed over YouTube. The proposed merger would nearly triple the amount of train traffic through the Quad-Cities, going from eight trains per day to 22. The panel also heard from officials representing a coalition of Chicago-area suburbs, who also said the merger presented public safety concerns and would have a detrimental impact on the economy and traffic. The coalition said the railroads were underestimating the merger’s impact, and at a “bare minimum” it would cost $400 million to mitigate the effects there. The railroads, however, said the impact would be modest, and that it had worked diligently with communities to deal with their concerns. “We’ve been very proactive in reaching out to those communities to support reasonable steps to address the localized concerns about the nation’s commerce flowing closer to their homes,” said Keith Creel, president and CEO of Canadian Pacific. He specifically cited agreements the railroad reached with Quad Cities area governments including Davenport, Bettendorf, Muscatine and LeClaire. Mr. Creel also alleged that some parties made requests out of proportion or unrelated to the merger’s impact, though he didn’t cite anyone specifically. Earlier this year, a number of Quad Cities governments forged agreements with Canadian Pacific that entailed monetary payments in exchange for agreeing not to oppose the merger. The payments -- $10 million for Davenport and $3 million for Bettendorf, for example -- are conditioned on the merger being approved. The STB is expected to reach a decision whether to sign off on the merger early next year. Some local governments also have continued to fight. The city council in Camanche, Iowa, is opposed, and so are officials in Princeton, Iowa. The Scott County Board of Supervisors also lodged objections. For those local governments who did strike deals, much of the money will go to creating so-called quiet zones, where federal rules requiring trains to regularly sound their horns when approaching crossings would be waived in exchange for safety upgrades. Davenport also plans to use $2 million from its agreement to deal with the impact around the area’s regional water pollution control plant. This summer, a draft Environmental Impact Statement by the STB’s Office of Environmental Analysis said that “apart from train noise,” the potential adverse impacts of the proposed acquisition would be “negligible, minor and/or temporary." Some critics have faulted the study, though. The analysis said some of the most significant noise would be in the Quad Cities. A computer model conducted as part of the analysis said 6,307 “receptors,” which include homes, schools, nursing homes and churches, in 27 counties across five states would experience adverse noise impacts. In Scott County, the study said, 1,016 receptors would experience adverse noise impacts, an increase from 593 if the merger is not approved. In neighboring Muscatine County, the number of receptors with adverse noise impacts would more than double to 675. The STB hearings will continue through Friday and could extend to next week.