Eagle Point residents express concern about possible railroad ex - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Eagle Point residents express concern about possible railroad expansion


Eagle Point (WQOW) -Progressive Rail's possible rail expansion has Chippewa County residents concerned about costly consequences.

Chippewa County's Economic Development Committee met Wednesday night. The the agenda included a presentation from Progressive Rail's CEO Lon Van Gemert. However, he was not present at the meeting.

Progressive Rail is looking to add ten tracks to meet the company's growing demands.

“The rail is very important to Chippewa County, and it is very important to industry,” Chippewa County Economic Development Corporation Charlie Walker said. “Anytime we can make efficiencies in how we move cars, and not block traffic will be better off. The more goods you can put on the trains, the less the truck traffic, the less the wear and tear on the highways.”

Eagle Point is not ready to sign onto the project just yet.

“We understand there's things to be gained by working with them, but we need to proceed very cautiously and look out for the best interest of our residents,” Town Chairman Dennis Ferstenou said.

Progressive Rail is paying for the Chippewa County Highway Department to launch a traffic study, looking at the effects a possible expansion could have on nearby traffic. The company originally suggested closing 95th Avenue. Now Progressive Rail wants to build a bypass over the tracks, that could cut into residents' land.

“The farm that I live on is three years short of being a century farm, in our family for 97 years,” Eagle Point resident Doug Darrow said.

Darrow has a grain drying operation with a shed and bins just yards away from the current track.

“I would assume that all has to go away,” Darrow said.

He's also concerned about the noise that could come with additional tracks.

“They'll squeal for ten or fifteen or twenty minutes in the middle of the night,” Darrow said.

Supporters say it is important to be patient.

“The houses shaking is something they're going to have to deal with, and everybody is going to have to work together to see how to solve those problems,” Walker said.

Questions including noise issues, lighting, and land acquisition are just a few that have yet to be answered because Gemert was not available at Tuesday night's hearing.

“People say there's going to be economic development,” Ferstenou said. “I think we're more concerned about the impact it's going to have on our residents.”

Project costs are still unknown, but the town has concerns about who would be responsible for maintaining such a large bypass.

“I know that progress happens, and the economy has to continue to grow, but then I would like to have someone step up and at least be honest with us and tell us what's happening,” Darrow said.

Progressive Rail says the company will not move forward until the traffic study is complete, which could take months. The company was not willing to give News 18 any comments on the project.

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