State rules Silver Beach safety gates, light costing as much as $500,000 would be mandated by 2016
The results are in and Village of Belgium officials will have a pricey decision to make.
Officials were told last week by the Office of the Commissioner of Railroads that it will have to install warning lights and gates at the Silver Beach Road crossing if it plans to ultimately pave the road and install a stormwater retention pond in the nearby industrial park.
Initial estimates for the cost of the signals range between $125,000 and $500,000, Village President Rich Howells said.
“We had hoped they would tell us we would just have to install stop signs for now, but they told us we need to do the whole thing full blown,” Howells said.
According to state documents, the lights and gates must be installed by June 30, 2016, with the village bearing the entire cost.
The reasoning for installing the signals now is safety, the state said.
The approach to the crossing is blocked by trees and brush on all four sides near the crossing, according to the state.
The village owns the property only in the northwest portion near the crossing.
The southwest portion near the crossing is wetlands and the village would need to obtain Department of Natural Resources permission to clear the brush.
The southeast portion is owned by the Town of Belgium and village officials said they would seek property acquisition or a land easement from the town.
The northeast portion is located in the town and is owned by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service. The village would have to acquire a vision easement to clear the brush there.
“Obtaining legal rights to clear and maintain the necessary vision is outside of the village’s control,” according to the decision. “It appears unlikely the village will be able to obtain the necessary approvals to clear and maintain these three quadrants.
“Consequently, the available corner sight will still be inadequate after the roadway project is complete.”
No train-vehicle accidents have occurred at the crossing since 1973.
Howells said he expected the village to have to install the warning devices at some point.
“If we are going to pave Silver Beach and install a stormwater retention pond, we are going to have to fix up this crossing,” he said.
Howells and Director of Public Works Dan Birenbaum recently met with
McMahon Group, the village’s project engineer, and “were able to haggle on the price and drop it by about $250,000,” Howells said.
“It’s not a lot, but it’s a start.”
The project is expected to cost more than $3 million.
Another likely cost reduction should come in the form of state Transportation Economic Assistance grants, Howells said.
He said he and Birenbaum had a conference call with state officials who said the village could be eligible for up to $635,000 in grant funding.
Trimen Industries, a business in the village’s industrial park, was awarded a $150,000 grant in 2001 to help pave about 2,000 feet of Silver Beach Road west of the proposed project.
TEA grants award $5,000 per eligible employee, according to state documents.
The project calls for a 1.3-mile improvement from about 2,000 feet east of Highway KW east to Highway LL.
The road is currently between 14 and 18 feet wide. The village is planning to widen it to 24 feet and add a second lane of traffic.
The village must also install stop signs at the railroad crossing by this October, according to the state.
Reconstruction of the crossing must also be completed at that time, according to the state.
Union Pacific Railroad Co., which runs about six trains per day on the crossing, will help repair 60% of the actual crossing, according to orders from the state.
Village officials were scheduled to meet with neighboring property owners
Wednesday, followed by a public meeting to discuss the project.
More substantial talks, including whether to proceed with the project, will likely take place at the Monday, March 9, Village Board meeting, Howells said.
Village financial adviser Dave Wagner from Ehlers & Associates is scheduled to discuss the project before the board meeting, Howells said.