Rail projects mean more business, fewer traffic tie-ups
MILTON—State grants and loans announced Friday will lead to fewer railroad-crossing headaches for motorists in Janesville and Milton and increased capacity to serve local businesses, a railroad spokesman said.
One project will help Janesville-based Lycon, which mines sand and gravel in Janesville and recently built a cement and ready-mix plant in Oregon, Wis.
A second project is a new rail siding next to track that runs between Milton Junction and Highway 14 in Janesville.
Wisconsin & Southern Railroad will receive both awards.
Railroad spokesman Ken Lucht said the siding, about 1.5 miles long, will allow Wisconsin & Southern to build mile-long trains on the siding, which means fewer back-and-forth rail movements in Janesville and Milton, which often block rail crossings.
The siding also will reduce scheduling headaches for the railroad, which will be able to pull one train off on the siding while another train passes, Lucht said.
The railroad's Janesville yard west of Five Points has become a bottleneck, Lucht said, and the project will fix that.
“This will dramatically eliminate trains that are idling in Janesville waiting to go to market,” Lucht said.
The state's Freight Railroad Preservation Program awarded the railroad a $1.74 million grant to build the siding. The grant program covers up to 80 percent of project costs.
The Milton-to-Janesville siding also will receive a $218,040 from the state's Freight Railroad Infrastructure Improvement Program, a revolving loan program used to improve rail infrastructure and construct new rail-served facilities.
Lucht said the railroad hopes to get both projects started this fall and completed by next spring.
The Lycon-related project involves a $2.29 million grant to reactivate a 10-mile stretch of rail line between Fitchburg and Oregon. The city of Fitchburg and the village of Oregon own that line, which has not operated since the 1990s. Wisconsin & Southern also will receive a $286,673 loan for the project.
Oregon won't allow Lycon's new plant to operate unless it has rail service, officials said, so the project is vital to that business. Lucht said Lycon will ship its sand from Janesville, through Stoughton to Madison and then south to its Oregon plant.
Lycon ready-mix will supply commercial projects in Dane County, Lucht said.
Oregon and Fitchburg also own a continuation of that rail line from Oregon south to the Evansville area. The reactivation of the northern segment raises the question of rehabilitation of the southern segment, state Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, said in a news release.
Cullen said he has been working with officials in Evansville and with state Reps. Janis Ringhand, D-Evansville, and Andy Jorgensen, D-Fort Atkinson, to explore restoring rail service from Evansville to Oregon and on to Madison.
Wisconsin & Southern operates on the line that ends just north of Evansville. Union Pacific Railroad owns and operates the line that runs from Evansville south through the city and on to Janesville and Chicago.
“Without the Oregon-to-Madison line, there was not much interest in rail service north from Evansville,” Cullen said. “Now that we have the line from Oregon to Madison, I look forward to discussions that could lead to new rail service from Evansville into Madison.”
If built, the Evansville-to-Oregon line could open new grain-marketing opportunities for Landmark, a grain and soybean cooperative in Evansville, Cullen said.
“This is a major economic development step forward with implications for the entire region, Cullen said. “Access to rail lines is a critical consideration for many manufacturers looking to relocate or expand their business, and providing greater rail infrastructure will help make our area more competitive.”