At the risk of sounding completely clueless, I’ll just come right out and admit that I didn’t realize the extent that freight rail line — or the lack thereof — could still affect the prosperity of a community.
I just assumed that as long as there were enough trucks businesses could succeed by shipping on the highways.
But, there are communities in the state that have had a very difficult time attracting industrial and manufacturing businesses since freight rail service to their regions was discontinued.
For instance, it’s been a nearly 30-year dry spell for the southwest communities of Browntown, South Wayne, Gratiot, Darlington and Mineral Point. The Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Co. reports that businesses have approached them, stating their willingness to invest “millions of dollars” in agricultural industrial facilities in southwest Wisconsin, if they had access to rail lines.
Wisconsin has been purchasing and rebuilding abandoned freight lines for many years now. In fact The Wisconsin Department of Transportation administers two freight rail assistance programs: the Freight Rail Preservation Program and the Freight Rail Infrastructure Improvement Program.
This rail assistance program is helping Sheboygan County right now.
There’s a freight rail corridor in Sheboygan County that has not been used for 20 years and the communities there need it restored to seal the deal with businesses that rely on rails for shipping. It appears that, finally, after about two years of working with the state and the feds, it is going to happen.
Last May the state acquired a 10.9-mile stretch of abandoned Union Pacific rail line from the rail yard in the city of Plymouth to about the middle of Kohler. And in September they awarded a $12 million grant to WSOR for the $15 million project to have the line rebuilt. WSOR will provide the additional $3 million from local communities. Right now the city of Plymouth and WSOR are drafting a lease agreement.
The construction start for this project is still up in the air. It could be this fall, but then again it could be pushed back to spring of 2011, depending on how soon the lease agreement, the $3 million local match, and the project engineering/bid specs are finalized.
On a positive note: Did you know that one train car can haul one ton of freight 436 miles on one gallon of diesel fuel?