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Railways use fines to stop people from walking on, along train tracksSubmitted: 01/28/2015

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TOMAHAWK - Railroads across Wisconsin have started fining people who walk along railroad tracks. The policy changed in an effort to save lives after one of the most deadly years in the state's travel history.

Eight people died in train-involved deaths in 2014, six more than in 2013. And 2015 already saw its first train-related death when a Milwaukee man was hit and killed on January 2.

Railroad experts say many accidents happen because trains can't stop fast enough.

"[It] takes a loaded freight-train, which we're all running up here in the north now, more than a mile to stop. That's 18 football fields," said Susie Klinger of the Tomahawk Railway. "It's a long distance and lots of things can happen to you in that distance."

State Train Commissioner Jeff Plale thinks there have been more accidents because there's a lot more rail activity throughout the state than there has been in past years.

"Wisconsin is kind of an epicenter for rail activity," Plale said. "We're close to Chicago, which is still the rail hub of the country. We have a lot of sand that's going out of the state. We have oil that's flowing through the state."

Many closed rail lines have re-opened in the past few months, which means people need to be more alert around those tracks than they may have been in the past.

"Just because you haven't seen a train there in a long time, don't assume that a train couldn't come, because it certainly could," Plale said.

Train experts suggest more people are getting hit by trains because they're not being careful. Many people think they will hear a train coming toward them, but that may not be the case.

"Technology has come so far with trains," Klinger said. "Right now you don't hear that clickety-clack of the old days of the jointed rail. They're actually running on welded rail, which we call ribbon rail. It's seamless and there is no noise," she said. "You literally don't hear the train coming until it's right on you."

The best way to stay safe is to avoid walking on or along the train tracks.

Even though the tracks may be far away, trains jut out over either side of the tracks by about three feet. Standing near tracks means standing in a danger zone.

It's also trespassing to walk near a train track. The railroad owns the 50 feet of land on both sides of the track. So, if you're within that distance, you're not only putting yourself and others in danger, you could also get a fine.

"Fines are getting to be huge," says Klinger. "Frankly, all the railroads in the state of Wisconsin are beefing up their trespassing programs with their own police force. The fines range from $200 to $300."

Railroad companies hope the fines will stop people from coming near train tracks, and groups like Operation Lifesaver are also teaching more people about train safety.

But Plale and Klinger think common sense is your best guide.

"You don't try to beat a train," Plale said. "You don't take senior pictures on tracks, which has become a trend lately. Also, just use your head. You're not going to outrun a train. If you pick a fight with a train, you're not going to win."


Klinger puts the same advice another way: "Number one is 'See tracks, think trains."

It's a simple motto that can save many lives.

Related Weblinks:
Operation Lifesaver Website

Story By: Karolina Buczek

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 LOCAL NEWS
Prep your trees this winterSubmitted: 01/28/2015

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NORTHWOODS - Caring for your trees now could help keep forest healthier this spring and summer. Tree experts say that pruning during the winter poses less risk to your trees than during spring or summer. It will also help the tree maintain growth come spring.

"Folks are going to prune trees, it should be restricted to that period in which trees are dormant," said Steigerwaldt Analysis Operations Director Forrest Gibeault. "That dormancy period essentially is the same time when insects are very inactive and fungal disease is not going to spread."

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Prep your trees this winterSubmitted: 01/28/2015

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NORTHWOODS - Caring for your trees now could help keep forest healthier this spring and summer. Tree experts say that pruning during the winter poses less risk to your trees than during spring or summer. It will also help the tree maintain growth come spring.

"Folks are going to prune trees, it should be restricted to that period in which trees are dormant," said Steigerwaldt Analysis Operations Director Forrest Gibeault. "That dormancy period essentially is the same time when insects are very inactive and fungal disease is not going to spread."

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ANTIGO - A new budget proposal released by Gov. Scott Walker Wednesday would increase state funding for a number of programs that focus on rural school transportation.

The "Grow the Economy in Rural Wisconsin" proposal focused on a number of economic topics, but most of the education section focused on transportation funding.

Under the proposal, funding for Sparsity, High-Cost Pupil Transportation, and other pupil transportation aid would increase.

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- More snow might not be the first item on your wish list. But it could get you a weekend getaway. As the snow piles up, so do your chances of winning a Northwoods sweepstakes.

Rhinelander's Chamber of Commerce is running the Snow Day Sweepstakes. Executive Director of Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Dana DeMet, said the chamber hopes the sweepstakes will offer another way for people to enjoy winter in the Northwoods. It could also help people stay excited about getting more snow this time of year.

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 REGIONAL NEWS

RACINE - Gov. Scott Walker says he's planning trips soon to the important 2016 presidential primary states of South Carolina, Nevada and Florida.

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LANSING, MI - People will eventually be able to hike or bike from Ironwood, Michigan all the way to Belle Isle Park in Detroit.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced the plans for the trail in 2012, and just this week, the trail got its name. It will be called the Iron Belle Trail.

The Michigan DNR held a three-week trail naming contest this past fall. It got nearly 9,000 entries.

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Ford recalls 220,000 vehiclesSubmitted: 01/28/2015

NATIONWIDE - Ford announced on Wednesday it's recalling 220,000 cars for safety reasons.

But one local dealer Newswatch 12 spoke with says car owners likely won't be able to get their cars fixed until March.

That's because Ford needs to make the part to fix one of the issues and then send it to the dealers. Ford told the dealer Newswatch 12 spoke with that the parts won't be delivered until March.

The company is recalling certain 2010 to 2013 Ford Taurus, Lincoln MKS, and Ford Police Interceptor sedans.

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WASHINGTON, DC - The director of the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Tomah says he had already taken steps to address reports of overmedication of patients before federal officials announced a review of prescription practices at the Wisconsin facility.

Tomah VA director Mario DeSanctis says his staff began looking into the unusually high rate of opiate prescriptions in 2012. In an interview with the La Crosse Tribune (http://bit.ly/1BxJtoY ) this week, DeSanctis says steps to institute solutions to the problem have already been taken.

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