Milwaukee Street crossing upgrade OK’d

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The railroad crossing on North Milwaukee Street between Main and Elizabeth streets could be easier to cross – and safer - in the future.

The City Council Tuesday approved an additional $9,397.80 as the city’s share of upgrading the rail crossing during next year’s State 67 road project in the city.

Public Works Director/City Engineer Bill Immich told the council that the state Department of Transportation has agreed to pay the major part of the cost of upgrading the railroad crossing as part of its repaving of State 67.

Because the project will utilize federal funds, the crossing upgrade is required under federal law, Immich explained. That will include signal lights and a crossing gate.

“The railroad line is owned by the DOT and operated by the Wisconsin and Southern, so the DOT came up with rail safety funds for the project,” more than $100,000, Immich explained.

As part of the work, the DOT is asking the city to put in curb and gutter along Milwaukee Street between Mill and Elizabeth streets so the street is more defined, according to Immich.

Removing a rail spur to the southwest of the main rail line in that stretch at the same time would make it possible to flatten out the rise in Milwaukee Street in that area as well.

“That crossing now is like going off a jump,” Immich noted.

The Wisconsin and Southern would be required to pay $4,772.50 toward the project. While the railroad has yet to agree to that, Immich said DOT officials are confident they will agree.

“If we spend about $9,000, we can make that crossing 200 percent better than it is today,” Immich concluded.

“It will improve that slope dramatically and we’re glad for that,” Mayor Donald Pohlman agreed.

The city will be doing a repaving of Western Avenue at the same time as the state is doing State 67, Immich said.

The council approved 2 percent pay raises for Department of Public Works and Plymouth Utilities employees who were previously union represented.

City Administrator/Utilities Manager Brian Yerges explained that the city had already approved a 2014 contract with the union representing DPW workers calling for 1.66 percent pay raises.

“It is our understanding that they will not be certified as a union in 2014, so the contracts previously approved are no longer going to be in effect,” Yerges said.

The council voted to make the pay increase 2 percent for the affected DPW and utilities workers, equivalent to pay raises negotiated with police union members.

City ordinances were amended by the council to reflect job changes for Yerges and Immich. The separate position of utilities manager was removed from the code, while the city administrator had utilities manager duties added and director of public works was expanded to include city engineer duties.

The council approved the first step in acquiring land for a new water reservoir on the city’s west side.

The city is looking to purchase just under an acre just north of the two existing city water tanks at the end of West Main Street.

“This would provide enough land to meet our deficiency and our longterm needs for water storage,” Yerges said, citing a 2008 engineering study on the city’s water needs.

The plan is to build an 800,000 gallon storage tank in 2014, with room for an additional 1 million gallon tank in the future, and to extend Main Street to the west nearly 200 feet.

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