Commissioner needs to change course on crossing

IT CAN ONLY BE hoped that the state Commissioner of Railroads will hear the voice of the people.

The fate of the railroad crossing on North Milwaukee Street between Western Avenue and Elizabeth Street is still up in the air, with an order to close the crossing from the commissioner still pending.

It is still unclear why that order was issued in the first place or where the impetus for it came from, but what is clear is the widespread opposition in Plymouth and the surrounding area to closing the crossing.

The City Council has added their voice to that chorus, reversing its earlier support and going on record opposing the order to close the crossing, as the Plan Commission did earlier.

Many good reasons for opposing the closing were raised during public hearings before the Plan Commission and the City Council.

It goes beyond the simple convenience for many of the only direct north-south road from one end of the city to the other on Plymouth’s west side – although that certainly is a valid reason for keeping the crossing open.

Safety at the crossing is certainly not an issue, as figures presented by the Plymouth Police Department show. The crossing itself has not been the site of an accident in many years and has not been a contributing factor to any accidents.

There may be some concerns with increased use of the rail line to the north that may come in the future, but no one can say for sure and it is certainly no justification for closing the crossing.

Larger safety issues would be raised by closing the crossing.

It would force more large trucks into and even through downtown, creating potentially unsafe traffic issues at downtown intersections.

More importantly, closing the crossing would impact ambulance and emergency services to the north side of the city and beyond.

Orange Cross ambulances that serve this part of the county are housed on South Milwaukee Street. Responding to any calls north of the rail line – that includes Elkhart Lake, the town of Rhine and all of northwest Sheboygan County – would take longer without a direct route north out of the city.

The commissioner postponed a scheduled hearing in September on the order to close the crossing while waiting for the city to consider it and a new hearing date has not yet been set.

The city and its citizens have raised their voices strongly in opposition to the order. The Wisconsin Department of Transportation has also gone on record as opposing the order for a number of reasons.

That’s a lot of opposition to the order, for a number of good reasons. The Commissioner of Railroads needs to hear – and heed – all those voices.

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