Manawa’s mayor is taking steps to resolve the issue of the poor condition of the city’s railroad crossings.
Mayor John Smith has composed a letter expressing his concerns.
“As the mayor of Manawa, I feel compelled to address our ever increasing concern for the railroad crossings in the city,” he said in the letter.
Smith intends to send the letter to the representatives of Tree House Foods, Canadian National Railroad and the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.
“We have several concerns due to the extremely poor and rapidly eroding condition of each railroad crossing in the city,” he said. “Working with all three, maybe we will get something done.”
Common Council members approved the letter at a Committee of the Whole meeting on Oct. 7. They agreed that the letter be sent to the three entities.
“I think we need to make ourselves clear on this,” said Alderperson Mary Eck.
According to Smith’s letter, the main concerns are the crossings on County Road B and Bridge Street.
“The tracks are considerably lower than the road on either side of the tracks, causing very rough crossing and damage to vehicles,” the letter stated. “The crossing on Bridge Street has been the blame for a fuel tank breaking off of a commercial vehicle as it crossed the tracks. Also, this crossing is the source of several near-miss accidents as local traffic moves to the far right to cross and often times trailing vehicles attempt to pass as the forward vehicle moves back into the travel lane.”
The letter said all of the crossings have been blamed for front-end alignment issues on vehicles. There is also an increased concern for the safety of motorcycles, with the possibility of front tires being caught in the uneven crossings.
“These are not new issues, as the city has been involved in conversations with Canadian National Railroad and Sturm Foods in the recent past,” the letter stated. “Neither side appears to be ready to make a commitment to the railroad’s future use, and therefore the repair of the crossings seem to be a back burner issue.”
According to Smith, Sturm Foods’ use of the rail has been minimal to nonexistent over the past couple of years. Also, a “stoppage of use” sign has been placed in the middle of the tracks in Northport, indicating there is no plan to use the rails in the future.
“Whether or not the tracks will have future use is a concern for us for several reasons,” the letter stated, “but either way, this issue of the poor and now dangerous crossings needs to be addressed.”
“In my own conversations with representatives of Sturm Foods (Tree House), I have received differing opinions of the railroad’s continued use,” Smith said in the letter.
He recalled that executives from Tree House told city representatives that “there will never be another railcar brought to the facility again.”
In another discussion, executives indicated they “do not want to give up the option of using rail.”
When the city called Canadian National concerning a loose railroad tie in the Bridge Street crossing, they were told that Canadian National is “waiting for Sturm Foods to inform them of their plans for the future use of the railroad.”
“As a city, we are very aware of the importance that Sturm Foods and Canadian National Railroad have to our city’s history and the role both may play in our future,” the letter stated. “We ask that, along with the Wisconsin DOT, you work with the city of Manawa to resolve these issues and make our city one of safe travel passages.”