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Northeast Wisconsin officials say they need more freight rail options; Canadian National is not ready to make the investment

Written by Bill Wilson, Editor-in-Chief
freight railroad
Canadian National

Northeast Wisconsin needs more freight rail traffic. Class 1 railroad companies need more business in northeast Wisconsin.

A public hearing was held recently in the region, one that was organized by Wisconsin Sen. Tom Tiffany and Michigan Sen. Ed McBroom.

Northeast Wisconsin roads are crumbling, in large part because freight truck traffic continues to increase. Freight rail service in the region, however, is declining. Florence, Forest, Marinette and Menominee counties are the only counties in Wisconsin that experienced a reduction in freight rail traffic between 2014-2017. The service decline has put more freight trucks out on the road. However, Canadian National, which purchased the Wisconsin Central Railroad Co. in 2001, has shut down some service in northeast Wisconsin and has increased shipping rates.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation says there is a direct relation between Canadian National’s rates and the damage to northeast Wisconsin roads, especially in rural areas. Canadian National believes it would restore service in the area if there was a demand for it.

Sen. Tiffany was not buying Canadian National’s predicament during the meeting, and encouraged the Class 1 railroader to take another look at its business plan. He also recommended that the state of Wisconsin use more funds to improve rail infrastructure.

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