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Lawmakers Call for Action Over Train Stoppages in Rural Communities
Stoppages frequently block traffic in Solon Springs
Three northern lawmakers have called upon the Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner to utilize the maximum authority of his office to hold rail companies accountable for train stoppages that block rail crossings and cause disruptions to citizens of Wisconsin.
In a letter to Commissioner Jeff Plale, Senator Bob Jauch (D-Poplar), Representatives Nick Milroy (D-South Range) and Janet Bewley (D-Ashland) expressed concern that an increase in train stoppages cause disruption to citizens and presents serious safety concerns for emergency responders.
The legislators’ offices have received numerous contacts from concerned citizens in Solon Springs where as many as 20 trains going as fast as 50 miles per hour run through the small community each day. “When the trains aren’t running through town, they often stop for a shift change or to switch tracks creating a barrier which hinders travel of ordinary citizens, school busses and students, and emergency response vehicles,” said the lawmakers.
The lawmakers pointed to a recent 30 minute rail blockage that occurred during a visit by Commissioner Plale to Solon Springs. “During the lengthy delay we observed that the blocked passage slowed commercial and residential traffic and would have impeded an emergency vehicle if it was responding to a call at that time.”
“This kind of blockage occurs all the time in Solon Springs and no doubt occurs throughout Wisconsin. It appears that the railroads to don’t seem to care. They must be held accountable and steps must be taken to reduce the number of delays in Wisconsin,” they said.
Communities throughout the state are experiencing similar problems. The lawmakers pointed out that recent news stories relayed a situation in the town of Fond du Lac where a train was stopped for over 5 hours, blocking numerous crossings and snarling traffic. “We are also aware of a situation in Auburndale in Wood County where when a train stops it virtually traps the residents of a particular neighborhood. Junction City in Portage County is also experiencing similar train stoppages that are causing significant problems for that community,” they said.
“We appreciate the increase in rail traffic as well as its benefits to Wisconsin’s economy, however, something must be done to address this critical safety issue as quickly as possible,” they said.
“The Federal Railroad Administration encourages railroads to be good corporate citizens and work with state and local officials to eliminate or reduce the effects of blocked crossings. It appears as though they are not willing to do it on their own so we call upon you to do whatever you can to address these concerns.”