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Replacing railroad crossing is a waste of resources

Now is the time to remove the railroad crossing on Hwy. 64 in Medford.

Earlier this spring, it was announced that the rail crossing on Hwy. 64 was going to be removed entirely as part of the Hwy. 64 state road project. This news was met with celebration by everyone who has been jostled or had to swerve as they went over those tracks to prevent damage to their vehicles. It was likewise met with eager anticipation from community members that the unused rail corridor could finally inch closer to being redeveloped into a positive for the economic benefit of the region.

Those hopes have been dashed as the railroad and the Office of the Commission of Railroads instead are choosing to waste money on rebuilding a railroad crossing that hasn’t seen a train in more than two years.

The rail line officially ends somewhere south of Allman St. in Medford, fading, into the wooded area. In its heyday, it was an important conduit of goods, services and information, connecting eastern Taylor County to the wider world. Decades ago the section north of Medford was decommissioned and converted into a seasonal multi-use rail trail. The tracks in Medford continued to see fewer and fewer trains as the rail customer base changed, leaving only a handful of customers along the spur from Spencer to Medford. For more than a year, the line has been defacto out of service with a section of rail removed just north of Spencer making it impossible for a train to get to Medford even if the railroad wanted it to.

In light of this, it makes no sense to waste time and resources rebuilding a highway railroad crossing for trains that will never come. Is this some mindboggling bureaucratic boondoggle? Or is there some misguided idea that rail will someday rise again to its former glory days?

Things would be different if there was even a remote possibility that the rail line in that area would be put to use. The reality is that the condition of the rail lines throughout the length of the spur would require extensive overhaul if the track were to become anything other than a turn around point. It is also a harsh economic reality that the customers that would benefit from the rail line, just aren’t there to justify the investment in upgrading the rail lines.

The project to replace the railroad crossing is scheduled to take place later this month. It will require the road to be closed as crews work there.

Rather than investing in a shiny new monument to wasteful spending, the money would be better spent in removing the railroad crossing entirely to allow for better traffic flow.

Contact State Senator Cory Tomczyk, chairman of the state’s Transportation Committee at Sen.Tomczyk@legis.wisconsin. gov or (608) 266-2502 to tell him to stop this wasteful project. Also contact the Commissioner Don Vruwink of the Office of Commissioner of Railroads at 608-261-8221 or ocr@wisconsin. gov to tell them to take out the railroad crossing.