Forum Highlights Need For Less Costly And Expanded Rail Service
Keeping freight rail service in northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula was the focus of a forum in Rhinelander Tuesday.
State Senator Tom Tiffany and Michigan State Senator Ed McBroom hosted public meetings in Marquette and Rhinelander on the state of rail service in the Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin.
Several rail service users complained they have more product to ship via rail, but service has slowly cost more and less has been provided by Canadian National.
One of the business owners asking for legislative intervention was Steve Dahlquist of Northwoods Distribution of Rhinelander.
He says Canadian National provided excellent service that has not been as good as it once was...
"Those products all dried up. In 2008 there was none left. We had seven different customers that brought product in, then we were down to zero."
Vilas County Board Supervisor Jay Verhulst said Vilas county doesn't have one active rail line and if freight rail leaves what is called the "Highway 8 corridor", it will damage the economy...
"There is little or no opportunity for Vilas county to create economic development in any area outside of the timber business because of the lack of competitive shipping costs for manufacturing or any type of large business..."
Senator Tiffany says the forums give citizens a chance to voice their concerns about rail service and how the current service hurts the economy...
"We have a paper mill up here that has gone from about 80 percent of their product two decades ago was shipped by rail. Now it's down to 50 percent, putting a lot more stress on our roads. There's some opportunity there and we're hoping it gets picked up at the federal level and our federal legislators and perhaps the Surface Transportation Board begins to listen to these shippers who need better rates and services..."
The Northwoods Rail Transportation Commission is composed of 21 counties from both states and has been meeting for several years to keep or expand freight rail in the region.