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STB Defers To Federal Court In UP-Metra Dispute

September 25, 2020

After a series of extensions of a 10-year commuter-services operation agreement that expired on August 31, UP wants a federal court to declare that it no longer has a common-carrier obligation to continue service. Chicago commuter agency Metra asked the Surface Transportation Board to intervene, but STB says it will defer to the court.

The Surface Transportation Board today declined to intervene in a dispute between Union Pacific and Chicago’s Metra over UP’s commuter-service agreement with the transit agency, deferring instead to a federal district court in Chicago which is also hearing the case.

That court denied Metra’s motion last month for a preliminary injunction, which would have temporarily blocked UP from dropping the service while sending the matter to the STB. Because the court denied that motion, STB says it will close its own proceeding on the dispute.

“Here, the issues raised in Metra’s petition are already pending before the district court, which has concurrent jurisdiction over this matter (including authority to order injunctive relief if warranted), and which denied Metra’s motion to refer the issues to the Board,” STB wrote in its decision. “In these circumstances, the Board will deny Metra’s request for a declaratory order and decline to institute a proceeding, and consequently will also deny the petition for preliminary injunction.”

Rail Passengers Association was one of a coalition of groups filing comments to STB supporting Metra’s petition.

STB Member Martin Oberman recused himself from the decision, since he had been on Metra’s Board from 2013 until he began his STB service in January of 2019.