WASHINGTON — Chicago commuter operator Metra has become the third entity to sue over the Surface Transportation Board’s approval of the Canadian Pacific-Kansas City Southern merger.
In a single-page filing with the board, Metra notified the STB today (Wednesday, May 17) that it had initiated a suit on May 12 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, seeking review of the March 15 decision creating Canadian Pacific Kansas City. Metra’s court filing calls the board’s decision “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, an otherwise not in accordance with law or supported by substantial evidence.” It offers no specifics.
The language is identical to earlier suits filed by Union Pacific [see “Union Pacific challenges STB’s Canadian Pacific-Kansas City Southern merger decision,” Trains News Wire, May 5, 2023] and the Coalition to Stop CPKC, a group of Chicago suburbs [see “Chicago suburbs sue over CPKC merger,” News Wire, May 12, 2023].
The suit asks that the appeals court send the matter back to the STB “to correct its legal deficiencies.”
A Metra spokesman said this afternoon the commuter operator was not yet prepared to comment on the suit. STB spokesman Michael Booth said the board cannot comment on pending litigation.
Metra strongly opposed the merger, contending it will have a negative effect on commuter operations on two lines shared with CPKC, and sought significant conditions to mitigate those impacts. None were granted.
Perhaps most significantly, the commuter agency asked for dispatching control over the two shared routes. They are currently dispatched by the freight railroad in an agreement dating to the demise of the former owner, the Milwaukee Road. In a post-merger press conference, STB Chairman Martin J. Oberman said the board did not order the change “because we do not think the data requires it or supports it, and it would cause us, in effect, to break a contract.” [see “Metra, Chicago suburbs see few concerns addressed …,” News Wire, March 15, 2023].
He said the board’s plan for seven years of merger oversight, and extensive requirements to report operating metrics, will allow the STB to track the interaction between Metra and CPKC, “and if it turns out there are meaningful problems for Metra, that [dispatching] possibility, as well as the other conditions that were asked for, remain on the table.” Those other conditions included an extensive list of infrastructure improvements.
Metra’s opposition reflects, among other issues, disagreement with traffic modeling used by CP and KCS in their merger application. Metra’s own modeling indicated post-merger traffic growth would “break the rail system” on a single-track portion of the direct CPKC route between Minneapolis-St. Paul and Kansas City, leading trains to be rerouted through Chicago, to the detriment of the Metra Milwaukee-North and Milwaukee-West lines. [see “Metra opposes CP-KCS merger …,” News Wire, March 17, 2022]. (Metra eventually corrected some figures in that March filing, although CP and KCS would still say the Metra modeling was “irredeemably flawed.”) CPKC disagreed with Metra’s contention, and the STB ultimately sided with the freight railroads.