Improvements to be made at Villa Louis Boat Landing, nearby railroad crossing

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By Correne Martin

Improvements lay ahead for the Villa Louis Boat Landing in Prairie du Chien. As part of the project, the adjacent railroad crossing at North Water Street will become publicly designated, according to an Office of the Commissioner of Railroads (OCR) decision made on the city’s petition to create these changes.

According to a final decision document, Wisconsin and Southern Railroad (WSOR) and the city of Prairie du Chien will work together to upgrade the crossing. Though, all construction costs will be the city’s responsibility to pay or reimburse to WSOR.

The city owns, operates and maintains the Villa Louis Boat Landing on the west side of the tracks.

The city’s proposal, according to the document, is to refurbish the 1969 landing to include one additional boat ramp, two floating docks, handicapped-accessible parking and a fishing pier, a picnic shelter and parking area. The existing gravel on the railroad crossing is also proposed to become an asphalt surface about 30 feet wide. Additionally, an asphalt multi-use path, 8 feet wide, will be installed about 15 feet north of the crossing, for access from the parking area to the boat landing. The city will cover the cost of removing all existing surfaces and then constructing the roadway and multi-use path.

On Nov. 21, 2017, the city council adopted a resolution to change and improve the crossing. On Nov. 30, the city petitioned the OCR to convert it to public. On Feb. 20, the OCR held a public hearing in Madison and Prairie du Chien before Administrative Law Judge David Albino. 

The OCR determined the following facts about the site:

•WSOR operates two to four freight trains per day over the crossing at a maximum speed of 10 mph. 

•WSOR recently replaced rail, line and surface track along North Water Street at the crossing as part of a larger project to rehabilitate this stretch of railroad.

•Neither the Federal Railroad Administration accident history database, nor city records, indicate any documentation of accidents. 

The OCR said sight distances up and down the tracks will be evaluated when the crossing is reconstructed. However, it appears the sight distances available from all quadrants may be restricted due to trees. The document states that, by Aug. 30, this year, WSOR and the city should clear brush and trees and do trimming within the right-of-way for 330 feet along the tracks in each direction.

Reflective railroad and traffic signs will be installed at the crossing, and advance warning signs will also be installed in the area. 

The only costs WSOR may bear in this project, according to the final decision document, are those the OCR assessed to the railroad for any investigation or research.

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