Contract awarded, rail line work enters final phase

THE LAST STEP IN restoring rail service from Plymouth to Sheboygan Falls – and possibly beyond to Kohler – is ready to move forward. A contract for the final restoration work on the 10.3-mile rail line has been awarded to North Shore Track Services from Duluth, Minn., at a cost of $17.1 million.

The good news is that the bid – the lowest of four received – is 10 percent below the estimated cost of $19 million. That should be welcome to the consortium of public and private interests, including the city of Plymouth, that came together to pledge the funds for the work.

It puts to rest the fears and concerns that the project could end up going over projections, placing additional burdens on local taxpayers and businesses alike.

It means that, by this time next year, businesses in Sheboygan Falls like Bemis and Richardson will be able to resume receiving shipments of raw materials and supplies directly by rail, as they did before the Union Pacific Railroad abruptly halted rail service to them a decade or so ago.

It means, for the first time in 30 years or so, trains will be running between Plymouth and Sheboygan Falls.

It will mean that hundreds of jobs will remain in Sheboygan Falls, jobs that would have been lost if the continued lack of direct rail service had eventually forced industries like Bemis to relocate, which it surely would have. It will mean that Plymouth and Sheboygan Falls will have a new incentive to help attract industry – and jobs – to their industrial parks located on or in close proximity to the rail line. Every possible advantage helps bring new industry to a community and rail service is an important advantage.

The work this summer will create hardships, no doubt, for everyone in Plymouth, Sheboygan Falls and the area.

There will be required street and road closings for reconstruction of rail crossings – including State 57 on the eastern edge of Plymouth. That will cause detours and the attendant inconveniences for drivers, but every summer brings those kinds of inconveniences for road work every year, so it will be just another sign of the summer construction season for all of us.

But North Shore and the Wisconsin Southern should continue to work closely with local officials in Plymouth and Sheboygan Falls to keep residents and businesses apprised of the construction and its impact on their lives and livelihoods.

We will all have to make adjustments to the impacts construction will have this summer and we will all have to get used to trains crossing streets and roads that they haven’t for more than three decades once the work is done.

But the long-term gain will far, far outweigh any temporary inconveniences and we will all benefit when trains begin to run again, at last, between Plymouth and Sheboygan Falls.


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