City seeks state’s justification for crossings ruling

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

PLYMOUTH – Several City Council members are not satisfied with an order from the state Commissioner of Railroads – and it’s not for the Milwaukee Street crossing.

Council President Charles Hansen Tuesday raised concerns about the order from Commissioner Jeff Plale for the road crossings on the Plymouth-Sheboygan Falls that is slated to reopen this fall.

“The gist of the answer we got back from the commissioner of railroads is that they’re going to put up yield signs at all the crossings,” along with crossbuck railroad crossing signs, Hansen said, referring to five street crossings in the city of Plymouth, two in the town of Plymouth and two in the city of Sheboygan Falls.

“I worry somewhat about the crossing on Highland (Avenue) by Horizon (Elementary School) and the high school,” Hansen continued.

He noted that while trains are only expected to run two times a day, three times a week, in evening hours and only at speeds of no more than 25 mph, he still had concerns.

“I know kids leave the high school after concerts and practices,” in the evening, Hansen said.

“How do we get some other type of crossing,” he asked.

“What kind of options are you looking for,” Alderman David Williams asked Hansen.

“I guess some kind of flashing light,” Hansen responded.

“It is a valid concern,” Alderman Shawn Marcom commented, noting that during the winter it gets dark early enough that even in early evening the crossing will be in the dark.

“I think it should be looked into more, especially given the immature drivers that are often on that road,” Alderman Greg Hildebrand agreed.

“I think it is a legitimate concern for anyone in the city. Highland (Avenue) is a busy street,” Police Chief Jeff Tauscheck said. “Then nine months out of the year you add young inexperienced drivers from the high school.”

Tauscheck said he had contacted officials at the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad, who said the decision was made solely by the commissioner of railroads.

“I’m not sure what criteria the commissioner used to make these decisions, but I think it would be in the city’s best interest to look at some options and get some costs. Once you have the information in hand you can make some decisions,” Tauscheck continued.

Hansen noted that the finding of fact and order from the commissioner’s office referenced a review of the crossings conducted by his office, the railroad and the state Department of Transportation in February 2014, along with a report from a consulting engineer.

The consultants report recommended crossbucks and stop signs, according to the order from the commissioner’s office, while the OCR investigator recommended crossbucks and yield signs.

Tauscheck noted that stop signs might be more disruptive than yield signs and predicted that drivers would pay less attention to stop signs.

“Pavement markings, stops signs, yield signs only work as well as the person who comes across them follows them,” the chief added.

“I think we want to see those reports that went into this (order), if they realized there was a school there and there was traffic there,” Mayor Donald Pohlman stated. “Nobody here had a chance to put there 10 cents worth in. “I wouldn’t think we are prohibited from doing something more than yield signs in conjunction with the railroad,” Pohlman added. “If the city on its own could install flashing lights that could be seen from the top of the hill, maybe we should,” Alderman John Nelson said. At the direction of the council, City Administrator Brian Yerges said he would seek to obtain copies of the reports from the commissioner of railroads.


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