Crossing hearing time for public to speak

THE TIME TO BE heard is either 1:30 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, in the fire department training room in Plymouth City Hall. That’s when the state commissioner of railroads will hold a public hearing on the order to close the railroad crossing on North Milwaukee Street in the city of Plymouth.

The City Council and the Plan Commission have both gone on record opposing the order, which would mean the closing of North Milwaukee Street between Main and Elizabeth streets. The public hearings before both the council and the commission raised a number of concerns ranging from safety to convenience.

The impact of the closing would be felt far beyond that block and the city limits.

As officials of Orange Cross ambulance pointed out, it would negatively impact their response time to all areas to the north in the county that they serve, such as the village of Elkhart Lake and the towns of Rhine and Russell and beyond.

Businesses and industries that utilize Milwaukee Street for shipping and receiving goods would be negatively impacted as well, with the routes for those deliveries extended.

Beyond that, traffic downtown would be impacted as trucks that can no longer go directly north or south through the entire city on Milwaukee Street would instead be forced to negotiate several tight turns on Mill, Caroline and Main streets just trying to navigate through the city. Police Department records show that the crossing has not been the site of, or a significant contributor to, any traffic accidents for a good many years.

Yet, the first issue for the upcoming hearing, according to the commissioner, is:

Would closure of the Milwaukee Street crossing promote public safety and convenience? The overwhelming answer to that question, before both the City Council and the Plan Commission, was no – an answer backed up by the facts and the record.

That answer needs to be made perfectly clear to the commissioner when he hears directly from the public next month.

The hearing will also ask the question:

If the Milwaukee Street crossing remains open, what warning devices would be necessary to adequately protect and promote public safety?

That is the question that should be addressed, and answered.

The answer to the first question at issue – closing the crossing – has already been answered emphatically and that answer needs to be made clear to the commissioner at the hearing.

That is the time for the public to speak and make their voices heard.

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