Another major railroad is looking to expand its capacity in La Crosse as more crude oil and other freight moves along the rails.

Canadian Pacific has plans to add a third track along a ¾-mile stretch of its line between the Black River and its North Side rail yard, saying the new track would allow trains to pass more freely on its Chicago-Twin Cities corridor.

The railroad has requested permission from the state’s Commissioner of Railroads to modify two road crossings. The rail commissioner’s office has scheduled a public hearing at 1 p.m. Thursday.

If approved, it would be the city’s second major rail expansion this year.

BNSF is in the process of adding a second track along a four-mile stretch of its north-south line, a project that was met with resistance by those concerned about the environmental impact of increased crude oil traffic through city neighborhoods, parks and the La Crosse River marsh. A group of citizens have sued the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources over its issuance of a permit for work in the marsh and is asking a judge to temporarily halt work during the court proceedings.

According to CP’s petition, the modification would “increase network capacity.”

Spokesman Andy Cummings said the 4,500-foot rail addition will allow trains to pass even while crews are switching cars on the third track.

“The current alignment does not allow mainline operations to mainline operations to take place concurrently with some switching operations,” he said. “When this project is complete crews switching trains in the La Crosse yard will be able to do more work while mainline trains can pass without interference.”

Mayor Tim Kabat said the city’s primary concern will be keeping automobile traffic flowing.

“If there’s going to be train cars, rail cars, oil cars parked for an extended amount of time that would be a concern,” Kabat said.

Cummings said that would not be an issue.

“The planned work does not change the ways in which we use our rail corridor through La Crosse,” he said. “We’re planning this work so we can more efficiently conduct operations.”

City traffic engineer Matthew Gallager said he’s heard occasional complaints about trains blocking the Avon/Hager and Liberty/St. Cloud street intersections during switching but has no evidence that it is a problem.

The work will also require reconfiguration of medians the city installed in 2008 at a cost of about $17,500 in order to meet federal requirements for a no-whistle zone.

Canadian Pacific indicated in its petition that it will reimburse the city for any median or curb work necessary to maintain that quiet zone designation.

Big picture

You have free articles remaining.

Become a Member

Register for more free articles.
Stay logged in to skip the surveys.

The move comes as the nation’s Class 1 railroads compete for shares of growing freight volumes - including volatile crude oil from North Dakota, which has raised some concerns from rail safety advocates.

“We certainly are feeling a bit cautious about the whole thing,” said Ralph Knudson, spokesman for Citizens Acting for Rail Safety. “It’s going to mean - we assume - more big long oil trains sitting there … while another oil train passes by. Does that increase risk? Probably.”

U.S. freight rail volumes grew by 4 percent last year, according to the AAR, which points to a surge in shipment of intermodal containers, the boxes that carry most of our consumer products and which account for more than 47 percent of the industry’s cargo. Grain and sand accounted for the next biggest growth by volume.

But the volume of North Dakota oil moving by rail has skyrocketed more than 4,000 percent since 2008. Much of that oil moves down the Mississippi River corridor, according to reports that railroads file with state emergency officials. More than six trains a day, on average, roll through La Crosse - mostly on the BNSF line but increasingly on CP’s.

U.S. freight railroads are expected to spend a record $29 billion this year upgrading tracks and purchasing new locomotives and cars, according to the Association of American Railroads, the industry’s trade group.

Most of that work is to move more trains on the existing 140,000-mile network.

BNSF plans to invest $6 billion across its network; Canadian Pacific $1.5 billion.

Green light from Amtrak; no leverage for city

While not disclosing the project cost, Cummings said it is part of the railroad’s system-wide infrastructure investment. Cummings said construction has not been scheduled and a timeline will be set “based on the capacity needs of the rail corridor.”

Canadian Pacific is also upgrading its switchyard in La Crescent and adding passing sidings to its secondary line that continues south along the west bank of the Mississippi River.

Unlike BNSF, Canadian Pacific’s project will not require a wetland permit. And because it does not cross city land with murky ownership history, the city will not have the leverage to negotiate conditions like it did with BNSF.

Plans show the work will also move the mainline track back onto its original alignment, which is closer to the passenger platform at the Amtrak station.

“That’s a shorter walk for our passengers,” said Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Overall, the project could improve service between Chicago and the Twin Cities, where Amtrak trains run on CP track.

“The more freight capacity there is, the faster passenger trains can operate,” Magliari said. “At least theoretically.”

Subscribe to Daily Headlines

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

(21) comments


"City traffic engineer Matthew Gallager said he’s heard occasional complaints about trains blocking the Avon/Hager and Liberty/St. Cloud street intersections during switching but has no evidence that it is a problem."

Then he is either a liar or a moron. "Occasional complaints"? Trains routinely completely stop, blocking those intersections for half an hour or more at a time and the railroad knows they can do as they please with impunity. I've seen people wait and wait until they finally climb over or under a stopped car with no engine running, I've seen people carry bikes across. But most people would think it fruitless to report the railroad for blocking the intersections.

The railroads run the show, not the city.


elocs, my, my, a little inconvenience, eh? If you're sitting at Liberty, turn around and turn left on Hagar and in three blocks turn left onto George and over we go. Stuck at Avon? Turn around go one block to St Andrew and turn left, in six blocks you're at the stop and go light on George. Turn left and over we go. If you are on a tight timeline, why go to either of these crossings? Use Rose St overhead or George St overhead and don't get stuck, pretty simple, huh? If you live near these crossings this is pretty common knowledge. The tracks have been there over a hundred years. I suggest maybe you move.


Who said I am in a car, Einstein? I am usually on my bike and often pulling a trailer and the quickest way of getting from Menards is down Liberty St. and the trailer is too heavy to pull over the overhead.

I've lost track of how many times the arm has come down when I'm a half a block away from making it through. So I stop and wait for the train to go by and almost before the intersection is clear it stops and backs nearly all the way up. Then it really stops altogether and the engine shuts down. How long could it be? So I sit and wait, and wait, and wait. Then I think about isn't there some law that says they cannot block the intersection over a certain amount of time? Because my knees hurt and I've got to go as in "go".

Oh, and Einstein, I'm a retired senior citizen living on a fixed income so I can't move but I try and get around the best I can. So I suggest you put a sock in it next time before you shoot off your mouth.

Melowese Richardson

Wisconsin state law says that trains can not be stopped on crossings for more than 10 minutes. They can go back and forth all day from what I read.


Elocs , Einstein here; your info on bike riding sheds a new light on the subject. Pulling a bike trailer up George St viaduct would be a challenge for anyone. I too am a retired senior and fellow sufferer of the shrinking bladder syndrome. You do know that the CP tracks we are discussing are used for switching, right? Have been used for that purpose for decades if not a century. As Melo stated state law says ten minutes for a completely stopped train. A switch engine however, is constantly shoving cars down one track then pulling up, throwing a switch and shoving cars down a different track. This work can indeed tie up a crossing for a significant time which may seem like an eternity if you're doing the crossed leg shuffle. Growing older has it's bummer moments, but still beats the alternative of not growing older. If you were offended by my post, my apologies. A little info goes a long ways sometimes. Yours in science, Albert.


Can we expect more passenger trains and better service then too? At least it's not through an environmentally sensitive marsh. Did you know that BNSF now stands for 'Bridges Now Shimmed For (Safety)? With railroad ties no less?

Melowese Richardson

"Did you know that BNSF now stands for 'Bridges Now Shimmed For (Safety)? With railroad ties no less?"



Perhaps you could give all of us a detailed list of the terrible things that befell society due to the temporary bridge shoring in Stoddard.. I'll await your response.

Mr Wizard

What's the beef? Not too many years there used to be 6 tracks through the Avon and Liberty street crossings and the railroad still owns the property.


Occasional complaints!! But no evidence?!! How about coming down for a couple days when the kids are either on their way to school or coming home from school to see the evidence! I grew up 2 houses from this intersection and I can't even tell you how many times my Dad had taken kids over the viaduct because they were waiting 20 - 30 minutes or MORE! Or the numerous people, including kids that crawl over or under these trains! So scary. And how many people have lost their lives at these intersections? It's already dangerous enough for pedestrians. Why don't they do a little ground research. Guess, I'll have to tell my family and friends that still live down there to start calling EVERYDAY!

AirForce Retired

So tell us, EXACTLY, how many people lost their lives there? You obviously know or you would not have brought it up. You must have done "a little gbround research", So tell us.


Yes, years of living and visiting family there, that is my research... yelling at kids not to go over the train or under it! Why would I make this up?! I remember when they took out the big light signals in the middle of the road and put in arms but then people would just go around the arms because they were tired of waiting for the trains. Then they put the road dividers in to deter vehicles. Honestly, don't believe me but feel free to come down and sit on the picnic table with me and watch the foot traffic at those two crossings. I'll have a cold one waiting.

AirForce Retired

So you were just making your story, thanks for the confirmation.


What are you talking about making up my story??? Get a life!

AirForce Retired

you lied about people being killed and all your research nonsense. If your going to lie, do it somewhere people can't just look at what you actually said. Get a life? You should learn to be honest.


Dear Mommyof2, Baloney! What school are these kids walking to or from? St. John's is gone, St James is gone, Jefferson Elementary is gone. Only one left is Immanuel with an enrollment of around 50 and Logan JR High which is 8 or 9 city blocks away and kids get bus service to it in most cases. There are only two streets, Liberty and Avon that have crossings and only 6 residential blocks of homes on each south of the tracks. How many kids are you talking about? Most parents wouldn't dream of letting their kids walk to school these days. A sad but true fact. As MR Wizard stated there used to be six tracks along with 2 switch crews and many more smaller, but more frequent freights moving over these crossings. I grew up on the 6 hundred block of Avon, tracks were in our back yard and to my knowledge no one got killed or cut up by jumping the tracks. Give us some for instances please. Me thinks you embellish! Goose Green...No Cops Allowed !


OK you want a HISTORY lesson because yes I lived there for 25 years before moving away and my parents still live there! When I was a kid, a drunk guy got his legs cut off by going under a train while it sat there. An older lady was killed several years back right at Avon and Liberty one morning, and I remember this very clearly because I was getting ready for work when I heard the train horn. She was looking only at the train sitting on the tracks and failed to see the other train coming the other way. How about the milk truck guy that committed suicide... how about the lady on the bike! All these in the time I lived there. When I was a kid I remember going with my Dad to play cribbage with the guy in the tower that switch the tracks. And if you THINK that there are NO kids that cross those track and yes, wake up parents still DO! You need a reality check or hey come on down there and don't take my word for it, witness it yourself!


Mom, let's see a drunk guy got his legs cut off; this was the railroads fault? Drunk people make bad choices all the time, think drinking and driving. An older lady gets in a hurry and doesn't look both ways before crossing, hmmm? If it was several years ago those crossings were whistled. Might her old age have played a factor? Oh yes, which one was it? Avon or Liberty, they don't intersect, they run parallel . Can't have happened at both crossings. A tragedy for sure, but under what circumstances? Now we come to the suicide. Really, you're going to blame that one on the railroad being there?see my post to elocs about how to avoid these delays.


Wow... woops, in my haste to respond I should have said Avon and St. Cloud and MY POINT was that the trains stay on the tracks too long and I was only commenting on the "occasional complaints" when I know that it happens all too frequently. And by the way, I was responding to someone saying Retired's question about how many people lost their lives there! My G*D people we all have our opinions and that one just hit my cord because I know it to be a fault statement. Ever you choose to agree or not is your own deal. I'm out! I'm so down with these trolls!


Ugh... I did it again... I meant Liberty and St. Cloud and Avon and Hagar. I'm sure the trolls will be on my case about this too! But oh well, I'm outta here!


More noise, more pollution, more vibration, more bomb train risk..less livable Northside neighborhoods...

But who ever said that you Northsiders counted for anything at all?

Canada Oil Train Explosion Lac Megantic Full HD



Its a switch track..get real

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.