Proposed C.R. England facility in Northwest Illinois raises concerns

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A proposal by C.R. England to build a large truck driving school and maintenance facility in Northwest Illinois reportedly has raised caution flags over increased air pollution and truck traffic. The nation’s largest refrigerated trucking company, with $650 million in annual revenue, plans to relocate its East Chicago school and maintenance facility to a larger, 24-acre site south of U.S. 20 on State Route 149, along the east side of Portage, according to the Northwest Illnois Times.

The Salt Lake City-based company, with more than 2,900 drivers and 2,600 trucks, plans to build a Tech Business Center, partly at the former Eagle Services site, the Times reported. The new facility would become the company’s “second hub,” bringing in roughly 100 trucks a day, according to Chad England, vice president of recruiting.

It also would create more than 50 jobs with annual earnings between $25,000 and $75,000, and the potential hiring of 25 drivers a week at the school, England said. Other economic benefits likely would accrue to local vendors, including significant fuel sales and possible tire or heavy-duty truck maintenance work, said Keith Wallace, chief financial officer for C.R. England.

But Mark Coleman, of the Ogden Dunes Environmental Advisory Committee, is concerned about constant truck traffic coming to a region now designated a nonattainment area for ozone, under the eight-hour standard. Reggie Korthals, director of environmental planning at the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission, said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act has new “hot spot” requirements, which apply to highway projects involving facilities and intersections that have significant congestion and numbers of diesel vehicles.

C.R. England officials recently met with the Burns Harbor Plan Commission, which voted 4-1 to approve initial design plans but with a lengthy list of conditions, the Times reported. With the state planning to widen State Route 149 from Lenburg Road north to U.S. 20 some time between 2010 and 2020, the new truck facility could cause the widening project to require “hot spot analysis,” Korthals said. “The truck traffic also might complicate the management of traffic during construction,” Korthals told the Times.

Burns Harbor Plan Commission members insisted England install a stoplight at the intersection of Tech Drive and State Route 149, and company officials agreed. Korthals also suggested researching the amount of diesel idling at the new facility, but England told board members his firm’s trucks are leased every three years, keeping their engines running cleaner, and all future trucks will comply with 2007 emissions standards. Also, his trucks are equipped with auxiliary power units to allow drivers to keep trucks from idling overnight for air and heat. “These are not my grandpa’s trucks,” said England, a fourth-generation employee of the family business.