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STB: Wisconsin DOT doesn't need board's blessing to acquire UP line


The Surface Transportation Board (STB) recently ruled the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) does not need the board's authorization to acquire 69.6 miles of track between Reedsburg and Madison, Wis., from Union Pacific Railroad.

Although WisDOT plans to acquire the physical assets, it will not obtain the right or legal obligation to provide freight-rail service on the line or be in a position to interfere with freight operations, the STB determined. In summer, WisDOT reached an acquisition agreement with UP to purchase the rail corridor, which includes a bridge over Lake Wisconsin in Merrimac, for $30 million. The purchase price includes $25 million for land and $5 million for track improvements.

On Aug. 7, WisDOT filed a petition requesting that the STB approve its proposed acquisition of the line, which has been operated by Wisconsin & Southern Railroad L.L.C. (WSOR) since 1996 through a lease with UP.

WisDOT plans to purchase the line jointly with the Wisconsin River Rail Transit Commission (WRRTC) with funds from the state's Freight Rail Preservation Program. Service on the line would continue to be provided by WSOR under a lease agreement with the WRRTC.

WisDOT also plans to enter into land use and grant agreements with the WRRTC to transfer certain identified rights and responsibilities associated with the line for the Great Sauk Trail, a planned pedestrian and bike path.

After the acquisition is completed by year's end, the state will own about 600 miles of track in Wisconsin.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 11/12/2014