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The state of Wisconsin is closer to purchasing a 70-mile rail line between Madison, Reedsburg and Cottage Grove from Union Pacific Railroad, Gov. Scott Walker announced yesterday. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) has signed 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. The transaction, which must be approved by the Surface Transportation Board, is expected to be completed by late 2014."A strong freight-rail system is a key factor in supporting and growing Wisconsin's economy," said Walker in a press release. "This acquisition helps strengthen that system and further demonstrates the state’s commitment to freight rail, which many Wisconsin businesses depend on." 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 will continue to be provided by the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad (WSOR) under a lease agreement with the WRRTC. Last year, WSOR moved 5,070 cars on the line, which serves 23 customers that transport grain, chemicals, polymers, paper, food products, lumber, aggregate and metals.After the acquisition is completed, the state will own about 600 miles of track in Wisconsin. Annually, railroads move 33 percent — or about 180 million tons — of the state’s total freight by weight.
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