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The Ex-Illinois Central Railroad Between Madison and Monroe, WI - August 1, 1999
You can see from the photos above, the rails are being ripped out near Monroe. This is where the removal crew started in 1999. More pictures will be added as work progresses.
As you know, Wis DOT has elected to remove the Ex-Illinois Central rail line that runs from Madison, Wi to Freeport Ill. They removed the segment from Freeport to Monroe last year. This year, they started in Monroe and are continuing all the way through to Madison.
On Wednesday, I went to Green County to check up on the progress the rail removal crew was making. As of 10-13-99, they have made it from Monroe to just north of Belleville. All rail is removed from Freeport to Belleville now. On this day, the crew was working just north of the Sugar River bridge, heading toward the village of Basco.
These guys aren't wasting a bit of time. Had a chance to talk with several of the workers and they are very nice guys who are far more sympathetic to the removal of rail service in Green County than DOT, DNR and Green County. They are keeping the corridor neat and hauling away all material as they proceed.
This is something that I hate to see happen, but at least they are keeping the corridor intact so people can enjoy the beauty and splendor of this unique route.
This is a copy of a letter from Carl Batha to the Wis, DNR southern district director, Ruth Badger and several other people working in the southern district offices of the Wisconsin DNR pertinent to the former Illinois Central rail corridor from Freeport, IL to Madison, WI. Please read and re-read the letter as it says a lot which isn't directly communicated. The DNR doesn't have the money or staff to establish this trail.
On April 21, Batha told the Green County WI tourism committee the DNR didn't have the money for the trail, then on April 27th told the Green County Board of Supervisors before they voted to remove the rails that the DNR did have the money for the trail. Then on June, 25th, he told a group that the DNR didn't have the money for the trail. A news article on WEKZ radio in Monroe, WI recently related exactly the same thing...'no money for the trail'.
Also of interest is the statement that "many of the local governments that supported a recreational trail are now on record of supporting rail:" FACT: No local government EVER supported a recreational trail.
From Carl Batha:
On Friday, 9-10-99 I attended a meeting of the South Central Rail Transit Commission (SCWRTC) . There were important items on the agenda dealing with the Badger (Freeport-Madison) Trail.
(1) Pecatonica Rail Transit Commission asks that rails be reinstalled for commercial rail traffic from Monroe to Belleville.
(2) SCWRTC wanted to know how the "permit" from DOT and SCWRTC for DNR to operate a recreational trail on the line was progressing.
For background, SCWRTC has a hard time calling a meeting as there is difficulty in having a quorum. One member, Roberta Lightner sic (Leidner), does not attend because of, I believe, failing health. There is one vacancy on, which represents Dane County, on the commission. Depending on who fills this vacancy, the actions of the Commission could change 180 degrees.
Besides, not being able to meet because Commissioners are not, or do not make themselves available, when they do meet, there is not much happening other than the barest of necessities. There has not been a Rail Operator in years; little is invested in the maintenance or management of the line.
The Commission is at "gridlock." Some commissioners do not want the corridor to go to a "rails to trails" program; they believe there is a current need for rail traffic. The other sided of the "fence" are those commissioners, currently in the majority, that can't wait to unload the burden on to DNR, so we can inherit the neglect of the past 20 years and deal with the corridor management issues.
ISSUE # 1 RE-ESTABLISHING RAIL TRAFFIC BETWEEN MONROE AND BELLEVILLE
The Pecatonica Transit Commission "supervises" the operation between Monroe and Janesville. They passed a motion that it would help their line if the SCWRTC would reconsider rail traffic between Monroe and Belleville. Some of the commissioners serve on both commissions!! There are strong emotions that there is a market for rail traffic.
There was lots of discussion that Rail use is evolving and that now production grain agriculture (as verses pervious dairying agriculture) is a new potential high volume user. Representatives of the Monticello Speeder groups support this belief.
It was reported by the 'save the rails" contingent of the Commission that Rep. Brandemuehl (Chair of Highway and Transportation) will be calling a meeting of all local legislators along the corridor to look at the issue - clearly the pro-rail made this announcement to show they have a legislator on their side and that there will be an "inquiry."
Many of the local governments that supported a recreational trail, are now on (more recent record) of supporting rail. This may be because of the "support rail" rallying folks were the last to ask the question of them: or, they have a belief, or they want to believe that agriculture really needs this rail line now.
The anti recreation trail/pro rail group have argued the last several years:
(1) that rail is needed for recreation (speeder cars). That argument went sour when after 1+ years the speeder people could not show how they could effectively operate the line
that rail is needed for (manufacturing) business. This argument also
went sour when time after time the pro rail group brings
(3) and finally, that Agriculture is changing and needs rail now. This is the most current argument that is drawing attention. There may be data that grain agriculture is on the upswing. But the BIG question, will this support a viable rail line?
A motion was made at the meeting to commission an "independent contractor" to study the evolving new needs of agriculture and the use of rail. It was discussed that this "study" could get done for as little as $1,000 (!) , but the motion asked for up to $2,500 (!). An aide to Senator Erpenbach supported doing this "study" commenting that the Senators office had received a lot of calls about this new change in agricultural. The motion failed for a second. There was a lot of anger in the room by the pro-rail group.
ISSUE #2 Status of the permit to DNR to operate a recreational trail
I commented that the DNR is waiting and anxious to meet the challenge of having this most important corridor as a recreational trial. We have received a draft permit, but the various agency attorney's (DOT, SCWRTC, DNR) have not worked out the specific details of the agreement. I further said we have not taken this issue to our DNR Board because (1) the agreement is not in final stages and (2) we need to be assured that the corridor is not needed for rail use. In fact, I said the DNR will not pursue a recreational trail until all issues of rail use have been dealt with. Recreation comes second to rail freight.
I further stated that I feel like the DOT and SCWRTC are "tossing around this rail corridor as a hot potato" and wants DNR to "catch it" fast and fix all the problems!
I really believe this! These two agencies (DOT & SCWRTC) can't wait for DNR to have the responsibility of handling all the problems!! They want out, totally, of all responsibility. This is very evident in the (draft) agreement were they take no responsibility for anything-it will all be DNRs.
I believe a new round of legislative inquiry into why this Rail line is being abandoned is imminent.
There permit that goes to DNR for operating a recreational trail must keep DOT and SCWRTC as participating partners!
We should not enter into a Permit until we have staff and support $$ to operate and develop this trail. Adversaries to the trail are anxious to test whether we have the proper resources-they have said all along that we do not. This sides with their belief that the commercial use of this corridor for rail was let to slide by the government, which was the primary reason the rail failed, economically.
Lack of timely progress in establishing a Trail, erodes our political-leader support and the confidence of our citizen and Trail-user partners.
I think we (DNR) are floundering on this initiative. I plan to air my concerns and the realities of what we hope to take on must be realized right up front.
Carl Bath, DNR
People are being asked to call the following (two) toll free phone numbers which are Green County Tourism numbers and ask them to forward the question to Bob Hoesly: "Why are the Rails coming out?" Hoesly is the chairman of the South Central Rail Transit Commission, Chairman of the Green County Board of Supervisors, Chairman of the Pecatonica Rail Transit Commission and a member of the Green County Tourism committee. Also included is the email address which would be helpful to use.
You need to leave a message asking that they contact Hoesly and tell him you want to see the rails kept in place for servicing agricultural needs in Green and Dane County because agriculture is our #1 industry, as well as providing one more tourist opportunity for the area.
Not one local governmental body has gone on record as being in favor of removal of the rails. Six have gone on record as to keep the rails from the beginning. Included are the following:
Village of Monticello
Village of New Glarus
Village of Belleville
Town of Montrose
Town of Exeter
Town of Mt. Pleasant
Green County Economic Development Corp. (3 times)
Belleville Chamber of Commerce
Monticello Community Club
Please help us to stop the removal of the rails. It's not over yet and won't be until the last spike comes up.
1-888-222-9111 Ext 11 (If the question is asked) and 1-800-527-6838. Email
Bob Hoesly 608-527-2338 (Home phone number)
The following is a letter from Governor Tommy G. Thompson to the Village President of Belleville, Wisconsin. (Received 8-31-99)
C. Ziehli, Village President
Dear Mr. Ziehli,
you for your letter regarding your interest in preserving the railroad
corridor from Madison to Monroe for potential shippers in
railroads are important to transportation in Wisconsin, I asked several
members of my staff and the Wisconsin Department of
Railcorp completed its review of the line and shippers and did not
see a viable business opportunity. Therefore, they were not
WisDOT will retain ownership of the corridor, allowing the future restoration of rail service if its viability can be demonstrated. WisDOT will work with the Department of Natual Resources to allow the installation of a trail as an interim use.
decision to remove the rail was a difficult decision for all those
involved. The South Central Wisconsin Rail Transit Commission and
Thanks again for taking the time contact my office.
Southern Wisconsin Railcar Group.