Wisconsin railroad officials want Governor Scott Walker to veto a last-minute addition to the state budget.
The measure, approved as a part of the Joint Finance Committee’s final omnibus motion without discussion, repeals the state’s railroad trespassing law. The law allows police to issue citations to people who trespass on or along railroad tracks and corridors, primarily to prevent someone from being hit by a train.
Mark Davis with Union Pacific Railroad says the unexpected change could put public safety at risk. A person or vehicle is hit by a train in the U.S. about every three hours, while in the past five years, there have been eight trespasser injuries and 10 fatalities alone on Union Pacific property. He calls the change “very troubling for us, because we have found over the past several years that trespass fatalities are on the rise.”
State Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale says the provision started as an effort to address concerns about people trying to access fishing areas along the Mississippi River, but somehow transformed into a full repeal in the budget writing process. Plale says the fishing access issue is something they can fix without having to repeal an important law that protects public safety, either by putting in safe crossings or working with local officials. As written, he says “it opens up railroad trespass carte blanche throughout the state. I think it’s just wrong-headed.”
The state budget bill is currently being reviewed by Governor Scott Walker and his staff. He will issue his veto message when he signs the budget in to law.