Parts Of La Crosse Rail Expansion Plan Must Meet State Approval To Go Forward

State Government Oversees Rail Crossings At Streets, And Therefore Must Sign Off On Project


It will be up to the state to make some final decisions on a controversial rail expansion project in La Crosse.

La Crosse officials recently worked out a deal with BNSF Railway that will allow the company to add a second track through the city. Among other stipulations, BNSF will pay for most construction at three street crossings. A few final agreements, like adding sidewalks, still need to be worked out.

While railroads are federally regulated, the state oversees railroad crossings at streets, meaning that Wisconsin’s Commissioner of Railroads Jeff Plale must decide whether or not to approve the plans.

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“That’s the focus of our office, is making sure that as the railroad goes through a residential neighborhood that they do it safely,” he said at a public hearing on the crossings on Wednesday. “That’s the lens we’re looking through here, is to make sure those crossings are safe.”

Residents also spoke at the hearing, mostly voicing their concerns about safety and road blockages caused by the average 50 trains passing through daily.