The Wisconsin Department of Transportation signed an acquisition agreement to purchase a 70-mile segment of rail line from Madison to Reedsburg and Cottage Grove, according to a release.
Gov. Scott Walker announced Wednesday the rail corridor will be purchased from the Union Pacific Railroad, and the line includes a bridge over Lake Wisconsin at the village of Merrimac.
"A strong freight rail system is a key factor in supporting and growing Wisconsin's economy," Walker said in the release. "This acquisition helps strengthen that system and further demonstrates the state's commitment to freight rail, which many Wisconsin businesses depend on."
The purchase will cost $30 million with $5 million going toward track improvements and the other $25 million for the land, officials said. The purchase is being made jointly with the Wisconsin River Rail Transit Commission with funds from the Freight Rail Preservation Program, which provides grants to local units of government, industries and railroads for the purpose of preserving and rehabilitation essential rail lines.
The line will continue to be run by the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad under a lease with the WRRTC, according to the release.
Last year, WSOR transported more than 5,000 cars on the Madison to Reedsburg and Cottage Grove line, serving 23 customers including United Coop, Landmark Ag, Seneca Foods, R.R. Donnelly, Hanke, Greede Foundries and Hydrite Chemical, according to the release. Items transported include grain, chemicals, polymers, paper, food products, lumber, aggregate and metal.
The acquisition now goes to the Federal Surface Transportation Board for approval, officials said. The actual purchase of the rail line is expected to be complete by the end of the year.
Once the purchase is complete, there will be approximately 600 miles of state-owned track in Wisconsin, according to the release. Annually, the state's railroads move 33 percent, or about 180 million tons, of Wisconsin's total freight.