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Rail Transit Commission adds Michigan counties

UNDATED (WXPR) - Three Michigan counties have joined the Northwoods Rail Transit Commission, Wisconsin's largest Rail Transit group.

Iron, Ontonagon and Dickinson counties join 12 central and northern Wisconsin counties to promote more rail service here. Canadian National provides the service.

Wendy Gehlhoff from Florence County is the group's chairperson. “Rail lines don't recognize state boundaries, and in addition to that having counties from two different states allows us to do things on the federal level with the surface transportation board in an effort to help Canadian National see the importance of developing more rail service in the Northwoods." 

The group began meeting to keep rail service in this region. Business leaders have said several manufacturers in the north use rail service, saying it can be less expensive to use than trucking. Others have said they would use rail freight if lines the service was available to them. “In Niagara, Wisconsin, the shutdown paper mill area that is owned by Niagara Worldwide Development, they've had a couple of companies approach them, and even from outside our country looking to do projects there but because of the fact they don't have rail service from Canadian National, they're being held up." 

43-out-of-150 Northwoods companies surveyed said they would use rail if provided. Gehlhoff says Canadian National has been gradually decreasing the number of line miles they are servicing.

Gehlhoff says other Michigan counties are considering joining the group.