Train Delays in Wisconsin Rapids
Over the past couple months, residents of Wisconsin Rapids have taken notice- and experienced- an upswing in train delays at a number of our City’s 4+ crossings. These delays, ranging from minutes to (infrequently) over an hour, have the potential to create an unanticipated impact on people’s travel, human capital for employment, and potentially emergency response activity through the isolation of the City, West of the tracks.
Railroad activity (specifically freight) has been a cost-effective means of moving materials throughout Wisconsin (and the country) since the late 1800s. Today, freight railroads continue to play an important role in our local and regional economy through use of container shipments. As you can see from this map, rail interconnectedness makes moving large shipments anywhere within and out of the state possible through use of trains. For Wisconsin Rapids, our roots in paper and manufacturing, coupled with our central location, make rail a critical part of our local infrastructure and movement of goods throughout into and out of our region.
Given rail use will continue to be an significant mode of transportation in Wisconsin’s economy, it necessitates a focus on what actions might be needed to keep freight and people moving as efficiently and safely as possible. The recent upswing of train delays and related safety concerns has warranted the need to reach out to the railroad for possible solutions and ongoing work to quantify the issues caused by trains in our City and surrounding municipalities. Due to being federally regulated, local control and enforcement of long delays through use of citations is vastly limited, further necessitating an increased dialogue with the railroad companies to work toward a solution.
To help quantify the impact that train delays have on queuing at intersections, our City’s Engineering Department has been undergoing a study, looking at movements blocking tracks, as well as investigating what external factors may be causing the upswing in delays. Coupled with our internal study, over the past weeks, I’ve been in contact with national representatives from CN about the blockages occurring at City crossings, primarily related to switching resulting in back and forth movements blocking tracks. From my conversations with CN, I have been informed that my messages- and those from residents- have been received and elevated to their Government Affairs and Operations staff. Short of building an overpass or rerouting, I affirm my commitment to working together to remedy this situation in a way that is satisfactory for residents while still ensuring the continued operations of the railroads.
I encourage continued sharing of thoughts and concerns with City Staff as well as CN as we move forward. It is my hope- and expectation- that we find a solution that affords residents and visitors to our City the means to travel our streets in an efficient and safe manner. I will share information as it becomes available. Comments may be sent to CN here.
Thank you for reading,
Mayor Zach Vruwink