MARINETTE — After reaching out to Canadian National Railroad, the EagleHerald acquired a few additional details regarding the tire hazard and suspension-depleting trench of railroad crossing that spans State Street just to the north of Sherman Street in the City of Marinette.

The EagleHerald reported Nov. 22 on the progress City Engineer Brian Miller successfully negotiated with CN in regards to establishing a more solidified project plan and tentative timeline for restoring the crossing that has plagued motorists for a few years. At the time of that report, inquiries made to CN had not yet received response. 

However, a reply from CN’s Senior Advisor, Media Relations and Public Affairs Alexandre Boulé arrived earlier this week. Boulé confirmed Millers report that CN had committed to the reconstruction of the crossing. He also verified the tentative project timeline and added a few additional details regarding how various components of the reconstruction might be influenced by railroad operations. 

Safety topped the list.

For those unaccustomed to the internal workings of the railroad, safety represents the one of highest priorities for all operations and departments. When dealing with a train that spans 150 cars, where each car might weigh around 30 tons empty and as much as 70 tons or more at capacity, a single train might weigh several thousand tons. That kind of mass and momentum cannot stop on a dime; a fully loaded train requires more than a mile to come to a full stop after applying the brakes. 

However, an actual train and railroad transportation department represent only two components of railroad safety. Rail and tie gangs, diesel mechanics, electricians and yard operations all come into play when maintaining safety. Visit any one of the home pages for the big four railroad companies that operate within the United States (Canadian Northern, BNSF, Union Pacific and CSX), and one will find a direct link to a safety page outlining the company’s missions, goals and specific efforts when it comes to keeping its employees and the communities in which they operate safe.  

That commitment to safety influences the timing and management of various rail projects.

“Safety is the core value of CN and informs everything we do,” Boulé said in a response to inquiries from the EagleHerald. “Any need for an outside party to interact with our private property (i.e. the railroad crossing) will be extensively reviewed to match our exacting standards that are in place to ensure the safe and reliable condition of the railroad network.”

Another important point regarding how the railroad operates deals with the coordinated and smooth flow of trains over the entire railroad network that span the United States.  Coordinating the speed, timing and track switching of such a multitude of trains operating at any instant ensures a smooth, efficient and safe flow of traffic. It facilitates the timely transport of vital goods and other products of industry, retail and, especially this time of year, mail.

Advanced computer algorithms based on complex mathematics guide that intricate procession of trains from place to place across the nation. Such coordination can also influence the timing of various railroad projects. In other words, a mainline issue on the tracks in an area as far away as the State of Nebraska can create backups and headaches through the railroad network, including Wisconsin.

“Our work is always dependent on several factors such as weather, resource availability and the evolving demands of railroad operations across a continental network,” Boulé said. 

He also addressed another of the State Street crossing reconstruction project’s potential sources of delay, concerning a water line beneath the track, which the EagleHerald’s Nov. 22 article outlined.

A 12-inch diameter city water main beneath the crossing needs replacement. Any city project that could affect the tracks running over the line requires an official CN approval process. That process involves a detailed application and review that could take as long as 60 days.

 “The more complex the interaction, the longer the review process may take to ensure the structural integrity of the (railroad) line,” Boulé replied in an email. 

However, a smoother ride awaits for motorists on State Street, one now confirmed by both city and railroad officials. Boulé echoed Miller’s tentative timeline for the reconstruction. 

“Our goal is to conduct a full rebuild of the crossing over approximately three days in the early spring of 2020,” he said.