NEW RICHMOND — The Office of the Commissioner of Railroads for the state of Wisconsin issued Order 396746 on Monday, Sept. 14, effectively resolving the dispute between Wisconsin Central Ltd. (Canadian National Railroad) and the town of Richmond over the relocation of 105th Street in relation to the construction and operation of CN’s new autoport and intermodal shipping facility located on a 58-acre site just east of State Highway 64 at County Road A.
According to Tim O'Brien, attorney for the Town of Richmond:
“While not perfect, the settlement agreement meets the needs of the town and its taxpayers. It preserves emergency access, minimizes mixing of heavy trucks and passenger vehicles, keeps heavy trucks from direct access to other town roads, and allows the town to not have to redirect budgeted road funds to engineering and legal fees. It protects future taxpayers from being saddled with the costs of maintenance, snow removal and eventual reconstruction of a road that would primarily carry heavy truck traffic and serve a non-tax paying private business."
New Richmond Interim City Administrator Noah Widenfeld recounted the city’s role in the negotiation process with the railroad and its commitment to protect the interests of the town and residents impacted by the new facility.
“The city committed significant resources to ensure a transparent and open process with resident engagement including public forums to keep citizens apprised of the development of the rail site. Canadian National, and its operations, have a significant impact on the city of New Richmond with its rail line running through the heart of the city. The outcome of the OCR proceeding is positive as its goal is to keep heavy truck traffic from the facility to the County Road A/Highway 64 corridor. The city looks forward to a positive working relationship with Canadian National and future opportunities for collaboration,” Wiedenfeld said.
The settlement brings to a close a long, expensive and frequently frustrating battle between the town of Richmond, city of New Richmond and the railroad which has played out over the past year and a half. It clears the path for Canadian National to forge full speed ahead to complete its 2,000-slot-plus parking lot and intermodal staging area on a prime piece of real estate once considered a possible gateway to a growing community filled with lofty expectations.
The OCR Order corresponds to the agreement reached between the Town of Richmond and WCL which:
- Closes 105th Strett south of a private at grade crossing which will connect WCL’s mainline via a spur track to the new autoport/intermodal facility.
- Calls for WCL to pay for and construct a new cul-de-sac which will terminate 105th Street and remove and return to a natural state the remaining portion of 105th St. that used to connect to County Highway A.
- Permits WCL to pay for and construct a new private road bordering the southern and eastern boundary of its property connecting 105th Street to County Highway A. The east-west segment of the new road is to be designated as 175th Avenue and the north-south segment as 110th Street.
- WCL agrees to pay the town of Richmond a one-time fee of $175,000 in exchange for ownership rights to the section of 105th Street being discontinued, settlement of any claims by the town against WCL for trespass or failure to obtain necessary permits prior to beginning construction, withdrawal of all factual and legal claims residing with the OCR and waiver of the town’s right to appeal any OCR decision or claim any past or future professional fees.
While the actual written agreement is still being finalized, the town is scheduled to begin the statutory process to officially close 105th Street.
The agreement also allows emergency services access to the area via the two new private roads and assigns maintenance for the two new roads to WCL.
Nov. 17 hearing
Following a closed session on Thursday, Sept. 17, town officials passed a motion “to find the public interest requires discontinuance of 105th Street immediately south of the WCL spur track.”
Supervisors directed to town attorney to begin drafting a resolution accompanied by the appropriate documentation to close 105th Street, including notice of a public hearing to be held at the Town Hall (also by Zoom) on Tuesday, Nov. 17, starting at 6 p.m.
The board will also host a public information session as part of its regular meeting on Nov. 12, starting at 6 p.m.
Additional information will be posted to the town’s website (townofrichmond.com) as it becomes available.
Following the closing of 105th Street, the settlement agreement is expected to be completed by mid-November.