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Rail News: Canadian Pacific

Canadian Pacific to close intermodal operations at Milwaukee port; city's mayor asks railroad to reconsider


On Aug. 1, Canadian Pacific notified the Port of Milwaukee that it planned to discontinue intermodal operations at the port Sept. 1.

CP operates the port’s intermodal container yard, an all-asphalt surface facility equipped with a fleet of toplifts designed to expedite stacking and retrieval.

The decision to close the Milwaukee intermodal operation is part of the Class I’s ongoing efforts to enhance service reliability and efficiency, CP officials said in remarks issued via email.

The railroad “must consider the service needs and efficient operations for our whole customer base and our shareholders,” they said. “The fact is the Milwaukee terminal was not adding to the improved service we are providing our customers throughout our 15,000-mile network.”

CP is working with the three affected customers to identify alternative service options. Despite the closure, Wisconsin will remain a key component for train operations, CP officials said.

“The company pays several million dollars in annual taxes and employs about 450 employees who live and work in the state,” they said.

Nevertheless, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett expressed “alarm and dismay” over the termination announcement, and implored the railroad to reconsider the closing in a letter to CP President and Chief Executive Officer E. Hunter Harrison.

“The intermodal service at the Port of Milwaukee is a valuable, cost-saving service to numerous businesses in southeastern Wisconsin, [and] provides an efficient link to international markets through Canadian ports in both Vancouver, British Columbia, and Montreal, Quebec,” Barrett wrote. “The railroad’s unilateral action brings significant economic consequences to a wide range of [constituents].”

The decision will cost numerous jobs in the region and will impact employment among the manufacturers, retailers, and processors that benefit from the lower costs of using the intermodal service, he said.

“The Port of Milwaukee and our economic development partners have been heavily marketing this service and despite the state of the economy, the number of container lifts has increased over 9 percent in the last two years as a result,” Barrett wrote. “We anticipate further growth in the number of lifts if the service remains intact.”

Because the short notice given for the service termination “seems inconsistent with generally accepted business ethics” and many businesses that use the service have secondary contracts that cannot be modified in such a short timeframe — such as steamship schedules that are set well more than 30 days in advance — Barrett asked CP executives to reconsider the Sept. 1 closing date.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/15/2012