Brearly Street Added to Rail Crossing Closures

State Rail Commissioner says Livingston and Brearly Crossings must close

Wisconsin’s Railroad Commissioner has ordered both Livingston and Brearly Street crossings closed, leaving five crossings between Blair Street and East Washington Avenues.

Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale has ordered the closing of two rail crossings along the rail corridor on Madison’s Eastside. Wisconsin and Southern Railroad, which operates the tracks owned by Union Pacific Railroad, had petitioned to close Blount, Livingston, and Brearly crossings in 2009 and Plale had ordered Livingston Street closed earlier this year following a hearing.

The City of Madison was exploring its legal options and during a regular Pedestrian/Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Commission in July options were discussed on a response, but so far nothing has been announced.

While all three crossings were under consideration, it seemed unlikely that they all would be closed. Brearly Street seemed to be the next logical selection and so its closure may not be as much of a surprise. Residents and the City have protested the move to close the crossings since they contend it would hamper movement across the isthmus.

On key argument against the closing is the recent reconstruction of Williamson Street and the lack of left turn lanes. When the Williamson Street project was planned, the had been no discussion of crossing closures. With the rail crossing closings, the city has posited that traffic on the already heavily traveled arterial will bunch up at the remaining intersections with crossings.

Sixth District Alder Marsha Rummel told that she was “very disappointed” by the ruling and in subsequent communications to residents plans to keep them informed if the City plans any further legal action.

Quiet Zones Madison, a local group that has advocated for reduced train horn use in the rail corridor issued this statement following confirmation of the ruling, saying that the ruling put corporate interests in Kansas ahead of local residents:

We are disappointed that Railroad Commissioner Jeff Plale has chosen to ignore the residents of the Isthmus and our business owners/developers, safety experts, and engineers. His ruling will benefit a railroad CEO in Kansas (Watco) who wishes to run faster, heavier, longer, and louder freight trains through our neighborhood at all hours of the day/night. This ruling will force the City of Madison to use taxpayer dollars to construct new cul-de-sacs for dead ends, even though this is widely opposed and unwarranted from a safety standpoint. The railroads continue to have this power because nobody is paying attention – speak up, friends!

The order by requires the Railroad to pay for 90 percent of the cost to close the streets and install cul de sacs. The City will pay for the remaining 10 percent and all future upkeep. The City of Madison has until September 30, 2013 to submit plans and cost estimates to the state. The cul de sacs must be installed no later than June 1, 2014.

Related: Full text of Wisconsin Railroad Commissioner’s Decision

Related: Madison to Contest Livingston Rail Crossing Closure

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