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Upgrades planned for NR railroad crossings

Five of New Richmond's Wisconsin Central Ltd. railroad crossings will be upgraded with flashing LED lights by 2011.

The crossings are adequate for the time being, but because it's hard to see approaching trains at some of those crossings, the railroad must install LED flashing lights and gates to warn motorists and ensure public safety, according to a document filed with the state Office of the Commissioner of Railroads (OCR).

The crossings at 140th Street, First Street East/County Road K, Pavilion Road, Green Avenue and Washington Avenue will be updated with the LED lights over the next couple years.

The OCR is the state agency responsible for determining whether the warning devices at railroad crossings are adequate, along with other railroad related regulations.

On April 10, 2007, the commissioner of railroads instructed OCR staff to investigate the crossings as part of its routine inspections.

"We look to make sure the crossings are smooth and the signaling is correct," said Roger Breske, railroad commissioner. "We look them over, take pictures and make a decision."

In May, an official from the OCR investigated the six crossings in New Richmond. The investigation measured the types of warning devices at individual crossings and whether an upgrade was needed. These were his findings:

  • There are 6-8 Wisconsin Central Ltd. trains traveling through New Richmond daily. The trains travel at a speed of 30-40 mph.
  • The crossing at First Street East averages 2,100 vehicle crossings daily, the most of all the crossings studied, according to the report. Although the First Street crossing sees the most traffic, no accidents have been reported there since 1973.

    The crossing has automatic flashing lights, but the study shows they need to be upgraded to LED flashing lights, which are more visible to motorists.

  • The crossing at Washington Avenue, which intersects three tracks, has the worst score with five train-vehicle crashes since 1973 -- one in 1980, 1989, 1998, 2000 and 2006.

    Washington Avenue intersects the tracks at a 75 degree angle, making it hard for motorists to see while crossing.

  • Another busy road, 140th Street, sees about 1,100 vehicle crossings daily.

    The intersection needs updating because it is difficult to see an approaching train.

  • The crossings at Pavilion Road and Green Avenue have not had any accidents since 1973; however, because of sight impairments it is recommended that the crossing signals be updated.

Wisconsin Central Ltd. operates six to eight trains in New Richmond daily, according to the report.

Upgrading the crossings -- including material and installation costs -- will be paid for with the OCR's state and federal safety funds.

Wisconsin Central Ltd. will be responsible for bidding the project out and overseeing the construction of the new LED lights and the safety gate, but the project is subject to approval by OCR and WisDOT.

The upgrades will be complete by Dec. 31, 2010.

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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