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Drivers experiencing more delays due to trains

OSHKOSH, Wis. (AP) — More rail traffic in Wisconsin is leading to more blocked railroad crossings, a trend affecting drivers across the state.

A Canadian National train blocked Highway 175 south of Fond du Lac earlier this month, creating problems for both law enforcement and drivers, The Reporter Media reported.

“We were told that the crew ‘timed out’ and had to wait until a new crew came to relieve them,” Fond du Lac County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jeff Bonack said. Federal rules require crews to stop working when they’ve reached a certain number of hours, whether they’re at their destinations or not. “The trainmaster on duty then called back to say there were also four northbound trains stacked up waiting to move out.”

Law enforcement in Winnebago County frequently hears about trains blocking intersections, though an official there said they such incidents are not excessive, and Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale said there are similar complaints from Kenosha to Superior.

Plale said there are more trains on the system than at any time in the past decade. He said the increased traffic is due partly to the state’s proximity to Chicago. Rail carriers are busy moving crude oil from the Dakotas to refineries across the county and sand used in hydraulic fracturing. He said the increase was a key factor in state freight rail service increasing by 63 percent between 2002 and 2012.

“At one point we had 61 trains stuck in Wisconsin. It was nuts,” Plale said. “We’ve got to fix this and I don’t know if there is a magic wand, but we can’t have trains backed up all over Wisconsin.”

Plale said the state doesn’t need more rail lines, but rather a better handle on the logistics of moving trains through.

Canadian National, which is headquartered in Montreal, operates nearly 44 percent of the track in Wisconsin. Spokesman Patrick Waldron said the railroad is aware of issues caused by stopped trains and constantly works to minimize delays and blocked crossings.

Information from: The Reporter Media, http://www.fdlreporter.com

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