MADISON (WKOW) -- The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has agreed to purchase a rail line between Madison and Reedsburg.
Gov. Scott Walker's office released a statement Wednesday announcing the acquisition agreement to purchase 70 miles of rail line from the Union Pacific Railroad. The line is from Madison to Reedsburg and Cottage Grove, including a bridge over Lake Wisconsin at the village of Merrimac.
“A strong freight rail system is a key factor in supporting and growing Wisconsin’s economy,” Governor Walker said in a statement. “This acquisition helps strengthen that system and further demonstrates the state’s commitment to freight rail, which many Wisconsin businesses depend on.”
The state will pay $30 million, with $5 million going toward track improvements and the other $25 million for land, using funds from the Freight Rail Preservation Program. Service on the line will continue by the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad under lease with the Wisconsin River Rail Transit Commission.
The acquisition must now go to the Federal Surface Transportation Board for approval. The actual purchase is expected by late 2014.
Last year, the main purpose of the rail line was to transport goods like grain, chemicals, polymers, paper, food products, lumber, aggregate and metal.
Sauk County Board Chair Marty Krueger tells 27 News the state purchase of the line will ensure 2,500 manufacturing jobs will remain in the area, with the future of transportation for local businesses' products secured.
Krueger says the decision also allows the Sauk Trail Development Commission to transform a portion of the rail line that's been abandoned into a recreational trail that would connect the Sauk Prairie area with Devil's Lake State Park, bringing more visitors and tourists to the region.
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