MADISON, WI (WTAQ) - The wood products industry in northern Wisconsin needs more rail service to ship its goods, at a time when railroads have been pulling out of the region.
The pro-business Walker administration does not have many answers on this one.
State Transportation Secretary Mark Gottlieb says his agency knows the concerns. However, he told the Northwoods Rail Transit Commission in Rhinelander that state dollars are very limited -- and with new highways and mass transit competing for those dollars, the key is to set priorities that best serve the state as a whole.
Also, Gottlieb says there's not much the state can do to stop railroads from abandoning shorter lines. The Canadian National is seeking federal approval to abandon a rail line from Crandon to Argonne.
Since the railroads were deregulated, Gottlieb says they're investing in more profitable locations. That leaves out much of sparsely populated northern Wisconsin, and Gottlieb agrees that it's hurting the region's effort to grow its economy.
The Transit Commission is trying to acquire rail cars to make it more feasible for a railroad to operate in the Northwoods.
The panel says many wood products' firms would like to ship by rail because it's cheaper than trucking -- and it's less damaging to the highways.
(Story courtesy of Wheeler News Service)