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It's about growth - not cutting. Matt Rose, Railway Age, 3/6/2019
Less is not better. Matt Rose, Railway Age, 12/10/2018

"The Staggers Act wasn’t, 'Railroads, haul only what you want to haul on your network.' It’s 'Haul everything, and you have the ability and the flexibility to differentially price on your network.' That’s the deal, and it’s in the public’s best interest to move more tons to the railroad network, not to move tons off the railroad network."

"Industries, jobs and taxes want to go where the railroad is."
Wick Moorman, CEO Norfolk Southern,
Congressional Testimony 4/24/2013


About Wisconsin Central Group: WCGroup is an ad hoc rail freight stakeholders coalition dedicated to increasing economic opportunity and competitiveness throughout the Wisconsin Central and Great Lakes Forests Region by working collaboratively to increase freight on the region's lighter density rail lines. More About WCGroup

About Commitment to Working Collaboratively? "'An ecosystem of collaboration,' is what former CEO Claude Mongeau says of [CN's] supply chain approach, which aims to build trust while improving service and efficiency for railway and customer alike. 'It's the gift that keeps on giving ... . It leads, eventually, to ideas you didn't know were possible'" Trains, March 2017.

Highlights - WCGroup/LSSA Activities 2010-2021 4/13/2021

Competition in the Railroad Industry - WCGroup Position Summary


Latest News & Commentary

Our-of-Service RLCCs Getting on with the Long Haul Consider Planning $$$ Ask.
Posted 8/19/2022

Ashland, White Pine and Hwy8 RLCCs will consider asking Northwoods Rail Transit Commission ("NRTC") to join in campaigning this Fall for A Lifeline for Northwoods Rail & Rural Communities. NRTC will meet Friday, September 23, 2022 at Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association, Rhinelander. Counsel is expected to meet with Ashland, White Pine and Hwy8 participants and interested shippers on Wednesday and Thursday, September 21-22, 2022.

Comments on the "ask" are welcome. We expect that the RLCCs may choose to caucus in conjunction with the NRTC meeting on Friday, September 23, 2022. The proposed "lifeline" will be equally valuable for WCGroup RLCs served by in-service segments on Watco/FOXY/GDLK.

Out-of-Service RLCCs in for the Long-Haul.
Posted 7/5/2022

White Pine, Ashland and Hwy8 Rail Line Corridor Committees are formed. Hwy8 RLC met 4/28/2022 at PCA, Tomahawk. The White Pine and Ashland RLCC’s formed 4/29/2021 caucused following the Northwood Rail Transit Commission meeting 4/20/2022 at Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association, Rhinelander. At the suggestion of the Hwy8 RLCC, a Rail Line Corridor Coordinating Committee (“RLCCC”) is to be formed to assist and facilitate the work of the Northwoods and other RLCC in the process of forming.

The RLCCs are satisfied that Watco/FOXY/GDLK is committed to working with the RLCC and aspiring to restore the out-of-service corridors. Our immediate concern is availability of resources to Watco to commit to continuity of service and the priority Watco must give to immediate needs (e.g., funding repair of three Fox River bridges). From long experience, WCGroup and today, its fledgling RLCCs, that work must begin as much as a year ahead of Notice of Funding Opportunity (“NOFO”) to have a reasonable chance of succeeding. The challenge is for RLC shippers and stakeholders to take the initiative to prepare to respond to the NOFOs for essential granting funding for the out-of-service RLCs. The long haul clock is already ticking for the out-of-service RLCs.

Beyond the Northwoods RLCs and Watco, the Manitowoc RLC is expected to form before Fall 2022.

WCG/LSSA Rail Line Corridor Committees -
Undertaking Hunt for Grant Funding
Posted 4/25/2022

Stakeholders will meet Thursday 4/28/2022 to consider formation of a Hwy8 Rail Line Corridor Committee (Suggested Topics). A joint caucus of the Ashland and White Pine RLCCs will occur immediately following meeting of the Northwoods Rail Transit Commission on Friday, 4/29/2022 at Great Lakes Timber Professional Association, Rhinelander.

WCG/LSSA aims, over the next three to five years, indirectly and, as necessary, directly to make the business case and, as necessary, the public sector benefit/cost case for awards of public infrastructure funding to restore service on the Hwy8, Ashland and White Pine out-of-service Rail Line Corridors. Our expectation is to engage collaboratively with Watco/FOXY/GDLK, shippers, Great Lakes Forests Region communities and other stakeholders. LSSA will endeavor to independently assemble and provide Actionable Shipper Data necessary to prove credibility benefit/cost analyses to encourage private sector investments and to effectively compete for public grant funding as needed. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law – Local Programs resources provide our starting point for the hunt for public funding.

Activities of WCG/LSSA are conducted pursuant to Antitrust Compliance Guidelines and, with respect to Actionable Shipper Data, a Master Confidentiality Agreement including an appropriate information data security plan.

We not only believe rail services will return to the Great Lakes Forests Region but may very well be transformational. See “The Return of Rail” – reporting and commentary from a local Northwoods journalist.

WI Central Great Lakes Region Intermodal Differs from Class I Intermodal - BIG Time
Posted 7/22/2021

Class I intermodal in North America for the last 30 or so years has been double-stacked, long-haul, unit train, overseas containers predominating.

ontainers predominating.

What We Mean By “Intermodal” for the WI Central and Great Lakes Region is like what the Florida East Coast (“FEC”) does “Fast, Frequent and Profitable”. Wisconsin Central intermodal of the 1990s through 2003 (pictured in What We Mean By “Intermodal”) appears to be a precursor of FEC’s and other similar intermodal operations. Great Lakes Region style intermodal, once reestablished, may significantly increase competitiveness, remove over-the-road trucks from many highways and reduce emissions.

We expect the Northeast Wisconsin Intermodal Freight (WisDOT funded, WCGroup/LSSA participating on the Advisory Committee) will help quantify and confirm this potential for the future – the near future not the far distant future. Surface Transportation Board (“STB”) Chair Martin Oberman would like to see more “robust” competition by the railroad industry. WCGroup/LSSA believe the marketplace – with little or no STB regulatory intervention and with some public infrastructure investment – may be able to make it happen.


Meeting with Watco Leadership, CN/WC Acknowledgement Brings WCGroup Support for Watco Exemption Applications, No Further STB Review.
Posted 4/27/2021

On April 20, 2021, Watco’s leadership team met in-person in Green Bay, Wisconsin with representatives of WCGroup/LSSA, pursuant to a confidentiality agreement between them. Watco responded to a wide range of questions about the CN/WC/Watco Agreement and anticipated future operations pursuant to that Agreement, including many of the questions posed in WCGroup/LSSA’s 4/12/2021 Petition.

The meeting closed with the anticipation that WCGroup/LSSA would withdraw its petition to stay the effective date of the proposed exemption and an agreement as to what portions of their confidential discussion could be shared publicly. On April 21, 2021, representatives of WCGroup/LSSA and Watco (in-person at the same Green Bay, Wisconsin location), met in two separate online meetings with: (a) shipper participants in WCGroup/LSSA; and (b) other stakeholder allies of WCGroup/LSSA, mainly representatives of the public sector. The online meetings on April 21, 2021 concluded with a consensus that WCGroup/LSSA would withdraw its petition to stay the effective date of the proposed exemption and the anticipation that further discussion and development might lead to further amendment of the position taken by WCGroup/LSSA in their 4/12/2021 Petition.

Following these online meetings on April 21, 2021, WCGroup/LSSA received word that CN/WC planned to file a letter with the Board acknowledging that conditions imposed on CN control of Wisconsin Central Ltd. in STB Docket FD 34000 are not affected by the proposed CN/WC/Watco transaction. Based on that representation and receipt of the letter of acknowledgment filed with the Board, email communications on April 22, 2021 with the shipper participants in the online meetings on April 21, 2021 confirmed that WCGroup/LSSA would proceed to file this Amended Petition in Support of the Applications.

On April 23, 2021, WCGroup LSSA filed its Amended Petition in Support of the Applications for Exemption. We are now engaged in forming WCGroup “Rail Line Committees” to work in alliance with Watco and other stakeholders to obtain grant awards to assist in supporting new infrastructure investments in rail


CN/WC/Watco Proposed Transaction Notices of Exemption Challenged
Posted 4/13/2021

Attempting to implement a CN/WC/Watco Agreement, Watco with CN/WC’s support has filed Notices of Exemption before the Surface Transportation Board (“STB”) in an attempt to avoid public review of their Agreement by the Surface Transportation and, effectively, anybody else. WCGroup/LSSA on 4/12/2012 filed Petition to Revoke and Stay Exemption and For Classification as “Significant” Pursuant to 49 CFR Part 1180.

WCGroup/LSSA seek only process remedies: (a) Revocation of the exemptions and stay of the effective; and (b) a determination that the proposed CN/WC/Watco transaction is “significant” under 49 CFR Part 1180 with revocation of the presumptive waiver granted by 49 CFR 1180(b). At this time, they have taken no position on supporting, seeking conditions, or opposing the CN/WC/Watco transaction. At pp. 21-22, WCGroup/LSSA lists examples of a number of substantive questions they request be addressed by the Board.

Petitioners express their great appreciation for CN/WC’s collaboration with shippers and other stakeholders over the last decade and look forward to a similar relationship with Watco. WCGroup/LSSA take exception to the “behind-closed-doors” negotiation of the CN/WC/Watco Agreement with no known outreach to shippers and other stakeholders before filing Notices of Exemption that with the intent of precluding any and all public review.

WCGroup/LSSA does not want to be engaged in any proceedings before the STB. We would much rather spend our efforts and participant funds seeking state and federal grant funding for new, needed investments in rail and rail related infrastructure. Our hope is that our Petition will lead to open, productive communications and, as may be needed, negotiations that will avoid the need for any proceeding before the STB.

Fall 2020 - WCGroup/LSSA Once & Future Agenda
Posted 6/30/2020

We have been hard at work since announcement of CN's "Wisconsin - Northern Michigan Branch Line Proposed Divestiture" circa July 21, 2020. We wish every success to the proposed venture.

We have circulated our views on "Considerations for Responding to CN’s WC Divestiture Plan, Restoring/Transforming a System for Rail Access For Former Wisconsin Central Lighter Density Corridors".

Past is prologue. The experience of WCGroup and LSSA has defined a route for clearing the track ahead: "Grassroots Local Credentials for Responding to CN Divestiture".

Questions or additional information? Please contact WCGroup/LSSA Counsel jdvarda@dewittllp.com or

Summer 2020 - Update to A Comprehensive Update,
Rail Projects Progress - Spring 2020

Posted 6/30/2020

We continue to make substantial progress - Summer 2020 Update.

A Comprehensive Update, Rail Projects Progress - Spring 2020
Posted 4/20/2020

We have made substantial progress since the LSSA Data Co-op Committee meeting at Titletown Green Bay on January 21, 2020. There have been significant developments outlined in our Comprehensive Update - Spring 2020.

This update outlines a series of Projects during 2020, expanding on the LSSA/MITech Data Co-op Project (final report posted 4/3/2020), our overall objective remains to convert over-the-road truckload freight to rail and rail intermodal to fill currently underutilized rail capacity and identify new investments in rail and rail-related infrastructure to accommodate additional truckload conversions beyond existing rail capacity. More specifically, the multiple projects are outlined and discussed in the Update, as their goal, will:
  • On the demand side, assemble and deploy Actionable Shipper Data, freight all kinds, rail, truckload and intermodal of sufficient magnitude/volumes, at the freight lane level, to support railroad operations, rate and investment decisions that will result in substantial conversions from over-the-road truckload to rail and rail intermodal; and
  • On the supply side, assemble from the railroad participants, railroad operations and service metrics to support feasible conversions of over-the-road truckloads to currently underutilized  rail capacity and as the foundation for application for federal grant funds for selected, identified rail and rail related infrastructure investments.

The proposed deadline for completion of the Projects is year end 2020 with the objective of supporting applications for shares of the over $1 billion plus of USDOT infrastructure competitive grant funds. It is likely that the total available funding may be increased in the coming months.

MI/WI Legislators' Joint Forum on Northwoods Rail Service Upcoming
Posted 8/13/2019

Michigan Senator McBroom and Wisconsin Senator Tiffany will hold two public meetings on northwoods rail service, at Marquette on Monday, August 26, 2019 and at Rhinelander on Tuesday, August 27, 2019. See the Public Notice here.

NRTC/LSSA-DCC Joint Meeting, More About Grant Funding Opportunities
Posted 3/5/2019

LSSA's Data Co-op Committee and Northwoods Rail Transit Commission held a joint meeting 1/18/2019. Acting Chair, Stacey Johnson, explained NRTC's initiatives on: (a) coordinating activities of organizations interested in Northwods rail access (e.g., New North, GLTPA, WCA, etc.); and (b) seed money and grant funding for Northwoods rail and rail related preservation and infrastructure projects. Libby Ogard's, Prime Focus LLC, presentation provided "Grant Funding Opportunities Overview". Pasi Lautala provided an update of final steps in Phase One of the MI Tech /LSSA Data Co-op Project which has developed a uniquely detailed picture of Northwoods rail opportunities at the "Actionable Shipper Data" level [3rd Stakeholder Meeting MI Tech Report].

Moving Along on 2019-2020 Campaign, Follow the Money
Posted 12/13/2018

LSSA Data Co-op Committee meeting 11/6/2018 at Escanaba featured an update on MI Tech Data Co-op Project, exploration of the multiple uses for the aggregated data, expanding the number of years in the data base and consideration of recommendations for Campaign 2019-2020. At Madison on 11/27-28/2018, Counsel and NRTC's Chair addressed these topics in a series of meetings with: WI Counties Association; WI Manufacturers & Commerce; and WisDOT economic development and rail and harbors staff. From the latter consultations emerged a draft outline for a Wisconsin Forest and Freight Rail Preservation Program ("F2RPP"). The objective of F2RPP is to provide availability and flexibility of State funding to leverage federal grants such as those announced by USDOT on 12/11/2018, $1.5 Billion in BUILD Transportation Grants to Revitalize Infrastructure Nationwide.

NRTC Meets - Update on 2019-2020 Campaign Suggestions
Posted 11/1/2018

On 10/26/2018, the Northwoods Rail Transit Commission met at Rhinelander at the headquarters of the Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association ("GLTPA"). Counsel was provided a generous opportunity to participate and provide information on LSSA Data Co-op Project and on "gearing up" for WCGroup/LSSA Campaign 2019-2020. Representatives of the CN and E&LS railroads also participated. The NRTC meeting afforded a post-meeting opportunity to visit with GLTPA's Executive Director on the same topics. Meeting follow-up includes circulation to NRTC suggestions outlined in Campaign 2019-2020 - Some Action Options To Consider. The paper will also be presented to the LSSA DCC meeting at Escanaba on 11/6/2018. Several NRTC officials have been invited to attend. 

More Gearing Up for WCGroup/LSSA 2019-2020 Campaign
Posted 10/15/2018

On 10/13/2018, at Governor Walker's "2018 Governor's Freight Industry Summit - Wisconsin Freight: Recognizing the Local Connection," we circulated a further paper as part of the prologue to the WCGroup/LSSA's 2019 campaign for implementing concerted action based, in part, on anticipated findings of Phase 1 of the LSSA/Michigan Tech Data Co-Op Project.

An updated version of the paper is provided here: Un-Balkanize/Reintegrate Great Lakes Forests Wood Fiber Market, Re-Connect the Great Lakes Forests Region Rail Network.

Gearing Up for WCGroup/LSSA 2019-2020 Campaign
Posted 09/17/2018

On 9/13/2018 at WMC Headquarters, Madison, WisDOT Secretary Ross and Deputy Secretary Seitz keynoted and engaged in Q&A with participants at a special meeting of the WMC Transportation Committee. A draft of Counsel's upcoming presentation, on 9/19/2018 to the Price County Economic Development Corporation, was circulated. The paper is prologue to the WCGroup/LSSA's 2019 campaign for implementing concerted action based, in part, on anticipated findings of Phase 1 of the LSSA/Michigan Tech Data Co-Op Project.

The paper is available here: Challenges and Opportunities, Northwoods Railroading & Jobs - We're Not Fly-Over Country, and We're Not Going to Take It Anymore!

Escanaba Meeting 3/16/2017, Consensus Outline
Posted 04/11/2017

A diverse group of Great Lakes Forests Region freight rail stakeholders met at Weyerhauser's Escanaba, MI office on 3/16/2017. The meeting was hosted by Michigan Forest Products Council and included stakeholder members of Wisconsin Paper Council and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce. The product of these discussions and follow-up comments from Escanaba 3/16/2017 Invitees/Attendees is a Consensus Outline. In coming weeks, a focus group will proceed with refining priorities for WCGroup's Action Agenda 2017.



© 2013 Wisconsin Central Group, An ad hoc Rail Freight Stakeholders Coalition