State grant readies Port Milwaukee for increased rail service

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has awarded a grant of approximately $3 million to Port Milwaukee to upgrade railroad track on Jones Island. The money, from the state’s Freight Railroad Preservation Program, will be combined with a previously budgeted 20 percent match from Port Milwaukee in order to complete work valued at more than $3.7 million.

The grant will be used to modernize about 8,000 feet of track, directly benefiting a number of the port’s tenants. The work will also prepare Port Milwaukee for a possible resumption of intermodal container service connecting regional manufacturers and transportation companies with railroad service to the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

“Port Milwaukee’s railroad infrastructure has served Milwaukee companies for decades. These planned improvements will bring tracks at the port to the highest standards,” Mayor Tom Barrett said. “Looking forward, this work will facilitate the addition of long distance container service so local businesses can reach distant markets efficiently.”

Thousands of rail cars move through Port Milwaukee annually connecting to either the Union Pacific or Canadian Pacific Railways. That number is expected to increase substantially when intermodal service resumes.

Regularly scheduled rail container movement at Port Milwaukee ended in 2012 when Canadian Pacific streamlined its intermodal operation. Most companies that use shipping containers to move cargo in southeastern Wisconsin are now required to truck containers to Chicago-area rail yards, creating additional regulatory burdens for Wisconsin manufacturers and contributing to highway congestion. A resumption of intermodal service in Milwaukee would reduce transportation costs for many Wisconsin companies.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation anticipates the grant to Port Milwaukee to improve transportation efficiency and encourage economic growth in southeast Wisconsin.

“Port Milwaukee is an active transportation hub and vital economic artery for our region. The port’s multimodal connectivity ensures that Wisconsin-manufactured products can safely and reliably move to domestic and international markets via the port’s water, rail and highway access,” Port Milwaukee Director Adam Schlicht said. “The port’s efficiency and infrastructure ensures Wisconsin’s goods can move freely and readily and, with these rail improvements, companies in Milwaukee and around the region will see added transportation and economic benefits.”

Maritime Editorial