Milwaukee Street rail crossing to close

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff


The North Milwaukee Street crossing of the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad has been ordered closed by the state commissioner of railroads. The City Council has voted to go along with the decision, which would end through traffic from South Milwaukee to North Milwaukee Street. — Review photo by Emmitt B. Feldner The North Milwaukee Street crossing of the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad has been ordered closed by the state commissioner of railroads. The City Council has voted to go along with the decision, which would end through traffic from South Milwaukee to North Milwaukee Street. — Review photo by Emmitt B. Feldner PLYMOUTH – You can’t fight City Hall and City Hall decided it can’t fight the state commissioner of railroads.

The City Council Wednesday voted to support the order from the Office of the Commissioner of Railroads that would vacate North Milwaukee Street from Western Avenue to north of the Wisconsin and Southern railroad tracks.

The crossing closing would take place during a state Department of Transportation project on State 67/Milwaukee Street scheduled for 2015.

The commissioner’s office has scheduled a hearing on the proposal for Wednesday, Sept. 3, at 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. in room 305, City Hall.

Director of Public Works/City Engineer Bill Immich explained to the council that the railroad commissioner has the authority to order the closing of crossings that are deemed unsafe or dangerous.

At issue is the steep grade leading up to the crossing from the Milwaukee/ Western intersection, Immich said.

City Administrator Brian Yerges said it could cost the city $35,000 or more to upgrade the street at the intersection to meet safety standards. Immich added that new signals for the crossing could cost an additional $170,000.

Yerges noted that the city could oppose the order to close the crossing, “but 88 to 90 percent of the time it is still going to get closed anyway.”

Under the proposal from the OCR, North Milwaukee Street would dead-end just north of the railroad crossing and south of Elizabeth Street.

“Elizabeth Street is going to be used a lot more,” by north-south traffic through the city, Yerges conceded, if the crossing is closed.

The most recent traffic counts show 2,900 vehicles a day using Western Avenue between Milwaukee and Elizabeth, 2,400 a day on Milwaukee between Main and Elizabeth streets, and 1,000 a day on Elizabeth between Milwaukee and Western.

Yerges did say that Sartori Foods, which has facilities on both sides of Milwaukee Street in that area, has expressed their opposition to closing the crossing.

Immich said the city could receive up to $15,000 in state and federal closure incentive payments if it supports the OCR order.

That money, he said, could help the city pay for relocating pedestrian walkways and making them safer at the crossing.

“We didn’t see this coming. Can we get any public input on this,” Alderman John Nelson asked.

“If they close it anyway and we oppose it, we don’t get the $15,000,” Mayor Donald Pohlman responded.

“I don’t like closing it, but if we can get $15,000 or a little more for something they’re going to do anyway, I’m for it,” Alderman Jim Sedlacek commented.

The council voted to support the half-block street closing by a vote of 7-1, with Alderman Shawn Marcom voting no.


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