Some Davenport elected officials and riverfront commission members are worried about the quick pace at which Canadian Pacific Railroad is moving to fix several city crosswalks, saying more time may be needed to develop a plan that fits with the city’s goal of beautifying the riverfront.
Executive officials from Canadian Pacific met with Davenport aldermen, the mayor, city administrators and members of the Riverfront Improvement Commission on Wednesday to discuss permanent repair plans for crosswalks affected by the company’s decision to raise its railroad tracks roughly two months ago.
Concerns centered around the company’s goal to have completed designs for every crossing except Gaines Street by June 21 – a deadline city staff warned is coming fast – and whether the city should stick with temporary crossings for now.
Dee Bruemmer, the vice chair of Davenport’s Riverfront Improvement Commission, said the railroad’s changes to the railroad tracks have created “use issues” for residents. She noted the raised crossings stand to obstruct the view of the river from some of the city’s major downtown thoroughfares as an example, and says those problems still need to be reconciled.
“I just don’t ever see that happening in 30 days,” she said. “So, I hope you that you work with the city on what needs to be done in a very short period of time. And I think as a community we should wait and be willing for temporary crossings until we have a better understanding of what permanent things look like and can be accepted by our community.”
Canadian Pacific officials appeared generally receptive to the idea of slowing things down. Tony Marquis, a senior vice president of operations with Canadian Pacific, said Wednesday the company wants to “do the right thing” by the city, but also expressed concern about abiding by state law.
“The last thing we would want to do is shy away from the 30 days because of you and then all of a sudden we end up in a court of law saying you didn’t fix it in 30 days,” he said.
Davenport Mayor Frank Klipsch sought to assuage those concerns, suggesting city staff work with the Iowa Department of Transportation to ensure Canadian Pacific is not harmed by waiting.
“We’d like a little more time to take a look at this so that we can jointly come up with a plan if that’s where we’re headed,” Klipsch added.
In March, Canadian Pacific began raising its railroad tracks to allow its trains to pass through floodwater, a decision that was met with instant criticism by city leaders. The company said the track raising was meant to protect the rail infrastructure that runs alongside the Mississippi River and to keep train traffic moving across the United States.
Immediate reactions from city leaders included anger and frustration aimed at Canadian Pacific because the railroad never consulted the city before raising the tracks. Railroad tracks are governed under a federal law that gives great leeway to freight companies concerning their right-of-way.
Mayor Klipsch spoke to that point briefly on Wednesday, saying the relationship and communication has improved greatly over the last month.
Since late May, Canadian Pacific has been installing several temporary crossings around the city. Completed temporary crossings include Marquette, Perry and Harrison streets.