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Trains chugging faster than usual in western Wisconsin

This railroad sign is located near the St. Croix Central Elementary School.

Anyone stopped at a railway crossing in the past week may have noticed the train chugging past faster than usual.

On Feb. 21 Union Pacific Railroad increased train speed on its rail line by 10 mph and another 10 mph on Feb. 28, when the new maximum speed limit of 50 mph went into effect.

The speed increase is a result of recent track improvements between Hudson and Menomonie.

Union Pacific invested more than $4 million in 2010 by replacing rail along the 20 mile stretch, by improving surfaces at 26 grade crossings and replacing five switches -- the devices that guide a train from one track to another.

Union Pacific Director of Corporate Relations and Media Mark Davis said the rail line increased the speeds in 10 mph increments so drivers had the opportunity to become accustomed to the increases.

Davis said the speed increase should not increase the risk of injury for pedestrians or motorists.

"Statistics show that there are fewer incidents at crossings when the speeds are 49 mph and above," he said.

"Heed the warnings at all crossings all the time," he added.

Davis said the improved and additional rail capacity benefits everyone.

According to a Feb. 2 Union Pacific press release, the increased speed and improvements, "Allows freight rail service to grow, helping to build a cleaner environment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, freight trains are nearly four times more fuel efficient than trucks. Motorists also benefit from reduced congestion on highways as a single Union Pacific train can remove up to 300 trucks off our roads."

In addition to changes being more efficient for the rail line, Davis said the speed increase reduces the time motorists and pedestrians are stopped at a railway crossing.

The railway crossing in Roberts runs right past the St. Croix Central Elementary School and it is important parents inform their children of train safety guidelines.

Union Pacific also has safety programs available to educate individuals about train safety.

"Programs such as UP Cares and Operation Lifesaver are available and we would be happy to get the schools in touch with the program coordinators," Davis said.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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