Shawano hopes to get railroad renovation grant

DOT funding would take care of two sections of rail, open up city to cost-share with businesses
Lee Pulaski
City Editor

The Shawano Common Council gave its approval for the city to seek a grant that would help upgrade some of the railroad tracks in the community and hopefully improve commerce as well.

Scott Kroening, public works director, told the council Jan. 24 the city has been setting aside $17,000 annually to keep up with maintenance of some of the tracks within the city limits, specifically the ones that intersect with industrial businesses. However, city officials believe a grant from Wisconsin Department of Transpiration Freight Rail Preservation program could take care of maintenance needs for the next four years.

“Our department was looking for somehow to see if there were any grants out there for railroad spurs,” Kroening said. “There isn’t a lot out there. This was one program that we checked into and saw we had a good chance at getting some funding.”

The city is seeking a grant for $315,000 from DOT, which would require a 20% match from the city of $78,750. With $10,000 required for rail inspection and design management, the city would be on the hook for $88,750.

Shawano plans to use the $17,000 for this year and an equal amount for next year as part of the match, along with $30,000 already planned for rail work when the city rehabilitates Industrial Drive in 2025, United Co-op, one of the businesses that benefits from the railroad tracks, plans to contribute $16,800 for the work, which left the council with agreeing to give an additional $7,950.

The city-owned tracks to be worked on include the Industrial Drive area near Novolex and the area near the Bay Lake Industrial Area off County Road B.

Kroening noted that the tracks were built in the 1980s and had been under constant threat of being shut down. He said once the annual maintenance program was established, it helped the problem but did not keep up with it.

“The spur tracks are in really terrible condition,” Kroening said, noting that the United Co-op track is in a “red board” condition, which means in stop mode. “We’re trying to rebuild these tracks, and our goal once we do is to maybe reduce funding for these tracks for future years. Right now, to do this without funding, that $400,000 is quite a bit.”

Kroening added that once the railroad tracks are improved, the city will look at cost-sharing future maintenance with the companies that benefit from them. He said it might encourage other industrial businesses to utilize the tracks for shipping freight.

Kroening noted the cities of Milwaukee and New London have successfully applied for DOT grants for their railroad tracks, so he’s optimistic Shawano can also get the grant.

Matt Pleshek, city engineer, said he believes no rehabilitation will be needed through 2028 if the city gets the DOT grant.