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The state of Wisconsin has finalized the purchase of a 70-mile Union Pacific Railroad line between Madison, Reedsburg and Cottage Grove, Gov. Scott Walker announced yesterday.The Wisconsin Department of Transportation signed an acquisition agreement with UP earlier this year. The state made the $30 million purchase jointly with the Wisconsin River Rail Transit Commission (WRRTC) using funds from the Freight Rail Preservation Program, which provides grants to railroads, industries and local governments to preserve and rehabilitate rail lines."This significant investment is yet another example of our state’s continued commitment to a strong transportation system, which is vital to growing Wisconsin’s economy," said Walker in a press release.Under a lease with the WRRTC, the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad will continue to provide service on the purchased line, which includes a bridge over Lake Wisconsin in Merrimac. Last year, the railroad moved 5,070 cars on the line and served 23 customers, including grain, chemicals, polymers, paper, food products, lumber, aggregate and metal shippers.Including the purchased line, there now are about 600 miles of state-owned track in Wisconsin. Annually, railroads move 33 percent — or about 180 million tons — of total freight by weight in the state. Freight-rail tonnage in Wisconsin is forecasted to grow 16 percent between 2007 and 2030.
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