Rail line project headed for final destination

IT WAS ENCOURAGING TO see a large turnout of interested prospective bidders at a prebidding informational meeting last week for the final phase of the reconstruction of the Plymouth- Kohler rail line.

More than two dozen representatives from various construction firms attended the all-day session, which included a complete review of the extensive bidding documents for the 10.3-mile, $19 million project as well as a tour of the line to view what some of the key items entail.

It’s been almost eight years since the state Department of Transportation agreed to purchase the abandoned line from the Union Pacific Railroad.

The purchase was necessitated when the Union Pacific ceased rail service to several industries in Sheboygan Falls via its spur line out of Sheboygan.

That threatened the economic viability of several of those industries, such as Bemis Manufacturing Co.

The revitalized Plymouth-Kohler line would enable the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad to provide needed rail service to those companies, as well as provide a transportation alternative for raw materials and finished product for existing companies along the line and new ones that will come to industrial parks along the line in Plymouth and Sheboygan Falls.

It has been a long haul, but this project is expected to reach its final destination by the end of next year.

And that will mean a delivery of good economic news for Sheboygan Falls, Plymouth and the rest of the county.

Falling gasoline prices are making trucks a more affordable alternative for moving goods and materials, but there are still many, many cases where rail is more affordable and feasible than trucks – and that won’t change.

Being able to offer rail service will enable the city of Plymouth to attract industries to the County PP industrial park that might otherwise not be interested and will be one selling point for that industrial park that many others cannot offer.

In the meantime, Bemis, Richardson, Kettle-Lakes Cooperative and other past rail users in Sheboygan Falls will be able to return to that mode of transportation, saving existing jobs and potentially spurring further growth and expansion – and additional jobs.

There will be some inconvenience next year for residents of Plymouth and Sheboygan Falls as streets are closed temporarily for rail and crossing work, but they’re the kinds of inconveniences that we live with year after year for road work and are part of modernday life.

This will not be a high-speed, high-traffic rail line that will be travelled by long, long trains carrying hazardous materials. It will be a spur line handling shorter trains at slow speeds for short durations.

But most importantly, it will be a spur line that, finally completed, is certain to spur economic growth and development in every community it serves.

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