DOT supports saving rail crossing

Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – The city may have an ally in its fight to keep the North Milwaukee Street railroad crossing open – the state Department of Transportation.

The City Council Tuesday directed City Administrator Brian Yerges to write a letter to the state Commissioner of Railroads endorsing the DOT proposal to keep the crossing open and upgrade the warning signals there.

The commissioner had scheduled a hearing in September on his pending order to close the crossing, but the city staved off that hearing by agreeing to consider closing the crossing. However, both the Plan Commission and the council voted unanimously last month to oppose closing the crossing for safety, traffic and connectivity reasons.

“The letter should be adamant that the city supports the DOT,” Alderman Shawn Marcom advised. “Then the railroad commissioner will look at it and say the DOT is for this and the city is for this. Our goal is to keep the crossing open.”

Yerges said the city was not aware of the DOT proposal to upgrade the crossing when it was informed by the railroad commissioner of the pending order to close the crossing.

He added that the DOT has requested that its original proposal be listed as an alternative at the rescheduled hearing on the issue.

A date for the hearing has not been set yet by the railroad commissioner, according to Yerges. That hearing would likely take place in January in Plymouth, he added.

“We can provide our comment at the public hearing, which we will do,” Yerges told the council, notby ing that the council-approved letter would help as well.

The city has already notified the commissioner’s office of the votes by the Plan Commission and the council to keep the crossing open, reversing an earlier resolution adopted by the council in June to support closing the crossing.

City officials said they are hoping to separate the crossing issue from a planned DOT reconstruction project on State 67 in the city.

The railroad crossing on North Milwaukee Street is not on State 67, which instead goes east one block on Mill Street, two blocks north on Caroline and one block west on Elizabeth before rejoining Milwaukee Street.

Yerges noted that the State 67 project includes replacement of a number of lead water service lines as part of the city’s compliance with a lead abatement order it is under from state and federal officials.

Any delay of the State 67 project would jeopardize the city’s compliance with that order and could lead to fines against the city if it cannot find another way to meet the lead line replacement quota for 2015.

Director of Public Works Bill Immich reported that the DOT had opened bids for the State 67 project Tuesday afternoon and that the bids were 12 percent higher than the projected costs.

Immich added he had no further information from DOT officials on exactly where the increased costs were and how much of that the city would have to pay as its part of the project.

“It’s gotten more complicated as of about 4 o’clock today,” Yerges commented about the impact of the higher bids for the State 67 project.

The council agreed to hold a special meeting next week to decide how to proceed once city officials get more detailed information from the DOT on the possible increased cost of the project.

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