Working on the railroad
After three years of complaints, local resident gets relief thanks to help from Sen. Jerry Petrowski
That is the sound of a loose railroad rail getting jostled by vehicles in the westbound lane of Hwy 64 in downtown Medford.
To a motorist, the clanking is a few seconds of annoyance. Those who live in the area heard the ker-klunks upward of 11,000 times all day and night. It is easy to see why local business owner and downtown resident Dave Zimmerman was upset by it.
Zimmerman has been complaining about the noise for years. Close to a decade ago, Canadian National, which owns the lines through Medford, did some repairs which addressed issues with the crossing for a while. Zimmerman estimated that is has been since 2017 that the noise from the westbound lane has been getting worse and he first called the railroad complaining about it on April 6 of that year.
Standing on the side of Hwy 13, the steel rail could be seen to bounce several inches in its tracks as vehicles rolled over it. Zimmerman worried about the day when the wear on the bolts holding it to the next piece of rail would become too great and it would snap causing injury or damage to a vehicle.
Zimmerman has regularly complained to the city and county about the issue and has attempted to contact the railroad. Local officials sympathized with Zimmerman, but explained their hands were tied since the railroads, under Wisconsin law, are outside of their authority.
This summer as the constant ker-klunks throughout the day and night made it impossible for him to open his windows, Zimmerman had enough and contacted State Sen. Jerry Petrowski. Petrowski had worked with then Rep. Mary Williams to get the railroad to repair the crossing last time.
Petrowski was in Medford on Thursday, Aug. 27 to meet with Zimmerman and check out the tracks. Also at the meeting was county highway commissioner Ben Stanfley, city streets/water superintendent Joe Harris, police chief Chad Liske and mayor Mike Wellner.
While the rail line in Medford is seldom-used, deadending before it reaches Allman St., Zimmerman said he did not want to see it go away. He said access to rail service is an important thing for industry in a community. He just wanted the noise and potential safety issues addressed with the crossing.
Petrowski, who serves as chairman of the senate transportation committee, agreed that something needed to be done, and said he had contacted Canadian National with the concerns. After seeing it first-hand, he said he would be following up with the railroad to try and get it fixed.
On Tuesday, a crew from Canadian National was in Medford digging out and replacing the rail in the road crossing.
While Zimmerman praises Petrowski for his quick action to get the issue resolved, he expressed disappointment that it took getting political pressure applied before Canadian National would address the problem at all.
“It is a sad situation that it takes that sort of thing to get action to the railroad,” Zimmerman said. “It is wonderful that Jerry [Petrowski] did that.”