Transportation is such a crucial issue to everyone, from residents trying to get around to businesses who rely on it to deliver their products. Yet it is also something we often take for granted.

Maybe that is because the Chippewa Valley is so well equipped from a highway perspective. Four-lane traffic on Interstate 94 and Highways 29 and 53 puts businesses here in a unique position.

While that is the case now, it does not make that also the case down the road, so to speak. If we don’t continue to make transportation a priority and address future infrastructure needs, the Valley’s ability to attract businesses and expand its reach could be severely hampered.

We look at those infrastructure strengths and challenges in our lead story, and in our next story examine how the increasing number of trucks on the road has led not only to an all-time record number of drivers, but concerns of a serious shortage of drivers in the future.

Seventy percent of all the freight nationally is moved by semi trucks. That still leaves plenty being delivered by other methods, and the Chippewa Valley is well situated in that respect as well. The rail industry is alive and well again, with Canadian National and Union Pacific serving the region. And Progressive Rail has been a savior for businesses with its short line from roughly Barron to Chippewa Falls, feeding into the UP line.

We spotlight how CN’s intermodal facility in Chippewa Falls has provided a direct link for area businesses such as Menards and farmers to Canada and international markets, enabling them to get better prices and reach infinitely more customers.

If the Chippewa Valley Rail Coalition has anything to say about it, commercial rail service will be joined by passenger rail, which has been on the upswing in U.S. metro areas. Trying to gain approval and funding has been an uphill climb, but the Eau Claire-Menomonie-Hudson corridor is now included in long-term passenger rail plans by both the Minnesota and Wisconsin Departments of Transportation.

Other forms of public transportation exist with city bus service and shared-ride offerings, and demand for it continues to rise among those who are unable to drive or simply choose not to. Lacking the creation of a regional transit authority, public transit largely is currently confined to in-city service.

We haven’t forgotten about the other method of transportation in the planes, trains and automobiles equation. Chippewa Valley Regional Airport has made many strides in the past decade, with a host of airport improvements and a decision to connect fliers to the busy Chicago hub of O’Hare. Professional charter service gives businesses even more options.

We hope you enjoy the latest issue of the Chippewa Valley Business Report.

Ross Evavold is editor of the Chippewa Valley Business Report and the Chippewa Herald. Contact him at ross.evavold@lee.net, or at 715-738-1606.

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