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Residents express concerns over new rail line

Standing room only for rail safety meeting

Residents express concerns over new rail line

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) - It was standing room only at a community meeting in La Crosse Tuesday.

Residents gathered to talk about a proposed second rail line through the city. Most residents who spoke raised concerns over safety when it comes to adding a second rail line in La Crosse.

They were concerned about increased rail traffic through neighborhoods and the marsh, but they were also concerned about what those extra trains are carrying.

Before the meeting even started it was clear they'd need extra chairs.

Resident placed pins on a map outside the meeting to show where they were from, and it showed residents came from all over the city came to express their concerns.

A group called Citizens Acting for Rail Safety, or CARS, held the meeting to inform the public about a proposed rail line from Central High School on the South Side to Logan High School on the north.

At the center of the concern is not only increased rail traffic in the city, but some of those trains would be carrying oil from Canada and the Dakota's, and CARS thinks that poses a risk to the city. Each train carries perhaps three million gallons of oil," said Ivring Balto, a CARS Representative, "85% of the cars that are carrying this oil have been deemed unsafe by the pipeline hazardous material safety administration."

CARS' concerns were echoed by those in attendance. The 85% of cars that are unsafe, that the government knows are unsafe, lets try and put those on the top of the list," said one resident.  What is this? I thought this was the 21st century, and we have big business telling us you will do this, you will do this, we will contaminate your home and you can pay for it, I'm sorry, that angers me," said another.

CARS hopes Tuesday's meeting motivates residents to act. We can talk about what's wrong, but what we have to do is take action," said another resident in attendance.

Mayor Kabat says the city is already working under the assumption that the new line will go in.  He says if the expansion is going to happen, they would really like to see updated rail cars to lower the danger of an accident and explosion on the tracks.

A spokesperson for BNSF railroad, the company proposing the new track, says the older train cars should be phased out.

The spokesperson also says there would be no added safety risk and says that 2012 and 2013 were the safest years on record for the rail industry.

The rail line would cost La Crosse taxpayers about a million dollars for things like updated rail crossings. That would be about 20% of the city's entire capital budget.

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