Railroad crossing closing — but when?

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

The crossing at North Milwaukee Street. – Review file photo The crossing at North Milwaukee Street. – Review file photo PLYMOUTH – They still don’t know for sure yet when it has to be closed, but the City Council took the first step Tuesday toward closing the North Milwaukee Street railroad crossing.

The council approved a $6,800 contract with Kapur and Associates for preliminary engineering for closing the crossing.

The state Office of the Commissioner of Railroads last month ordered the crossing closed by Aug. 31, more than a year after a hearing on the request by the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad to close the crossing.

“We asked that the closure be delayed until 2017, but we have not received a final order yet,” Yerges told the council. “Originally, we had to submit our plan (to close the crossing) by the end of July, but obviously that was impossible.”

The ruling from the OCR said the crossing must be blocked off by Aug. 31, with barricades erected on Milwaukee Street at Main Street and Elizabeth Street.

The July ruling also allowed for a 15-day public comment period, which Yerges noted made the July 31 deadline for a plan submission even more impossible.

Yerges said the ruling directs that the WSOR will pay 90 percent of all costs for the closing, since it comes at their request, with the city paying the remainder.

That includes engineering costs, so the city would only have to pay $680 of the cost of the preliminary engineering work approved Tuesday.

“We still have not received the final order,” from the OCR on the closing, Yerges noted, even though the comment period ended several weeks earlier.

Despite the lack of a final order, Yerges said he felt it was important for the city to begin the process as soon as possible so as not to get too far behind should the timeframe for the closing not be changed.

“We do not want to get caught short,” Yerges warned.

“To prepare for the eventual closure, we need to research and document the existing right-of-ways, gather survey information and review alternatives for the cul-de-sac,” Yerges wrote in a memo to the council.

The order to close the crossing allows for construction of a cul-de-sac on North Milwaukee Street south of Elizabeth Street to allow continued truck access to the Sartori Foods plant on that block.

“Sartori has also expressed interest in meeting with the city and the railroad on the proposed closure,” Yerges continued in his memo.

Alderman Shawn Marcom questioned Yerges whether the 90 percent the railroad is required to pay for the closing under the order applies to all phases and aspects of the project.

Yerges assured him that that is the case. “The closure is their responsibility in the order.”

Yerges did add that he believes that, if there is any cost for land acquisition for construction of the cul-de-sac, that the railroad should be responsible for all of that cost.

“From my perspective, the city wouldn’t have to be buying any right-of-way but for the order closing the crossing,” Yerges explained.

He also pointed out that he was not aware of any comment filed by the WSOR during the public comment period after the draft ruling was issued. Yerges said he took that to mean that the railroad is not objecting to paying 90 percent of the cost of the closing.

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