Residents argue against proposed rail line, second in one year

Safety for those crossing the tracks — that’s the biggest concern for many opponents of a new rail line.

Canadian Pacific Railway is proposing the additional track through the north side of La Crosse into the rail yard.

Thursday the public had the chance to voice their concern to a representative for the state’s railroad commissioner.

CP Railway wants to add a third track to improve efficiency through La Crosse.

The new track is less than a mile and would actually be placed on the same footprint of an old rail line, but those who live close to the current tracks said a third line would cause more harm than good.

Erin Schossow has lived in La Crosse for years, and she recently moved to the corner of St. Cloud and Liberty streets, which is along the route where Canadian Pacific Railway would like to install a third rail line.

Schossow has three kids, and her oldest has cerebral palsy. Like most parents, she said to get her three kids to school in the morning is not easy, but the train outside her house doesn’t make things any easier.

“We have to leave early for school, my kids do, in order to get across the tracks in time to not hit that 25-minute train,” Shossow said.

Shossow said some of the trains can be parked outside her house for up to 45 minutes at a time, and if they’re blocking the sidewalk when kids are trying to get to school, she said it can be dangerous.

“I, without me being out here, watched numerous times children climbing under, climbing over, I’ve seen some kids holding on to the trains,” Shossow said.

And that is why her biggest concern about a third track is safety, and she shares that concern with the city of La Crosse.

“There’s an issue with trains occupying those crossings, with the public streets being blocked occasionally and would not want that to get any worse and would, in fact, hope that it gets better if fluidity is improved through the crossings,” traffic engineer for La Crosse Matt Gallager said.

Canadian Pacific Railway said those long waits should be no longer with the third track.

“Currently when we’re conducting switching operations that can interfere with our main line operations, and we believe that this project will help to mainline operations to go on concurrently with switching operations more successfully,” said CP spokesman Andy Cummings.

But Shossow is not convinced.

“We have to wait for that first train, then the second train to even get through. So if there’s a third, I mean there’s just no way that school next year is going easy for us,” Shossow said.

Another concern from the public at today’s hearing is that the additional track will increase the number of trains carrying crude oil through La Crosse. Cummings said the amount of rail traffic depends on what its customers are shipping, saying it is a common-carrier railroad, meaning it will ship whatever its customers are sending as long as it fits under federal standards.

There is no timeline for the Wisconsin commissioner of railroads to make a decision on the third track, but Canadian Pacific hopes to begin working on the project late next year.

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