TOWN OF RICHMOND -- The township expects to present a list by Friday, Nov. 22, of potential mitigation measures now that Canadian National Railroad has made clear a 38-acre auto transfer lot operation west of city is coming.

A sparse audience was on hand Thursday evening, Nov. 14, at the Town of Richmond board meeting despite a rare appearance by three CN representatives.

(L-R) Canadian National Railroad Senior Project Manager Chris Hungerbuhler, Manager of Government & Public Affairs Larry LLoyd,  and Public Works Manager Jackie Macewicz were all present to update village officials on the timetable for the new autoport and answer questions. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia
(L-R) Canadian National Railroad Senior Project Manager Chris Hungerbuhler, Manager of Government & Public Affairs Larry LLoyd, and Public Works Manager Jackie Macewicz were all present to update village officials on the timetable for the new autoport and answer questions. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia

Manager of Government & Public Affairs Larry LLoyd, Senior Project Manager Chris Hungerbuhler and Public Works Manager Jackie Macewicz updated village officials on the timetable for the new autoport and answered questions.

Lloyd recapped CN progress to date noting his office responded on Friday, Nov. 8, to the list of 26 questions generated at the Oct. 9 community discussion. He also informed supervisors that CN is now the legal holder of the deed and that the company has obtained the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources permit to proceed with earthworks portion of the project.

Project Manager Chris Hungerbuhler said CN received five bids. Attempting to stay as local as possible, CN selected Black River Falls contractor Hoffman Construction to execute phase one preparation of the site.

Hungerbuhler explained that he opted to try to complete the leveling of the site over a three-week period prior to Christmas. The goals include reducing dust next spring. Equipment will arrive gradually and work will begin Monday, Dec. 2. The timetable is contingent on the weather.

“What that means is, next week and the week following there be silt and run-off barriers placed with respect to the wetlands requirements. Then Dec. 2, there will be crews from Hoffman starting right away. It will be a three-week process, so work ending around Dec. 22. It will be a two-shift operation, so 24/5. The work will stop Saturday morning sometime between 5 and 7 a.m. No work Saturday or Sunday with work resuming at 7 on Monday morning. The work entails removing the topsoil and repositioning it to level the area,” Hungerbuhler said.

Lloyd could not confirm whether construction will be around the clock five days or seven days a week when work resumes in the spring.

Hungerbuhler has asked the contractor to erect at least temporary berms as quickly as possible to dampen the noise for nearby residences.

Both Hungerbuhler and Lloyd emphasized the importance of CN receiving the mitigation measures being proposed by the township and city as soon as possible so that any negotiations can take place and decisions can be incorporated.

“It’s going to be tough to make everyone happy, we realize this, but we are here to meet the community. We’re not hiding from it. Do we have to be here? We don’t. We want to be able to agree on a development plan that meets the needs as much as possible. The issue is, it needs to move forward. We’re moving earth. We don’t want to get to the stage that it takes the city a year to make a decision and it’s already built,” Hungerbuhler said.

Richmond Town Chairman Gary Knutson suggested that discussions with Lloyd and CN had produced a tentative date of Nov. 22 for the town to present its proposed developers agreement containing the mitigation measures it and the city of New Richmond would like to see implemented.

Whether the whole installation is surrounded by a berm and whether that berm is 6 feet or 20 feet high will need to be negotiated in the near term. Another negotiation point is whether to reroute 105th Street.

At-grade crossings account for the largest percentage of injuries between people and trains. In addition, the current configuration would lead to lengthy traffic delays when rail cars carrying automobiles are being moved on and off the property, officials said.

An at-grade crossing also requires that a train blow its whistle every time it crosses.

Knutson suggested that common sense and safety dictate that rerouting 105th Street makes the most sense and that the board and railroad are probably on the same page.

Town Attorney Tim Scott and the board of supervisors agreed that if CN could provide a timeline noting when critical elements needed to be decided with regard to the developer’s agreement, those could be negotiated first leaving time for the balance of issues to be resolved at a later date.

“We’ve come to the realization that this is going to happen. Now we’ve got to look at the long-term for everybody and what’s in the best interest of everybody, “ Knutson said.

CN hopes to have the facility completed and everything in place ready to operate by July 1, 2021.

For updates and the latest information on the project including, maps, plans, traffic survey and answers to the list of community questions, visit the city of New Richmond website at newrichmondwi.gov/railproject