Village officials hope grant will help pay for expected safety measures
Village of Belgium officials will find out soon how much it will cost to improve a railroad crossing on Silver Beach Road as part of a paving project designed to attract businesses to its industrial park.
Mike Simon, project manager with McMahon Group, the village’s design firm for the project, told representatives from the state Office of the Commissioner of
Railroads and Union Pacific on Jan. 28 that the village plans to start construction on the project by July.
That likely won’t be possible until the railroad crossing, which is approximately one mile west of Highway LL, is altered.
The village is prepared to reconstruct the 1.3-mile road as a two-lane, 24-foot-wide asphalt road with six-foot-wide shoulders.
Currently, the portion of Silver Beach Road to be reconstructed is a single-lane, gravel surface that ranges between 14 and 18 feet wide.
The road will be closed to all traffic during construction, Simon said, with a temporary crossing constructed to facilitate farm access.
“The project will enhance the safety of the public by widening pavement, improve the flow of traffic and ride-ability,” Simon said.
There are seven businesses in the industrial park on the north side of Silver Beach Road and two on adjacent Jer Mar Road.
The village’s wastewater treatment facility is on the south side of Silver Beach Road.
The paving of the road and installation of a stormwater retention pond could cost the village up to $2.4 million.
A tax-incremental financing district (TIF) was established in 1995 to subsidize current and future improvements.
Right now, the TIF generates about $520,000 per year in property taxes.
All of the pond and possibly half of the road is TIF-eligible, Dave Wagner, the village’s financial advisor with Ehlers & Associates, said last year.
The rest of the project will likely be paid for by village taxpayers, unless it receives Transportation Economic Assistance (TEA) grants.
TEA grants are available for transportation improvements that are essential for economic development, according to the Department of Transportation.
The program provides 50% state grants to governing bodies to attract businesses to Wisconsin or encourage business to expand to stay in the state.
Officials have said the paving of Silver Beach Road is essential for future projects like Main Street reconstruction, because it will add a second east-west thoroughfare in the village.
It could be costly, however, because the Office of the Commissioner of Railroads could order the village to install warning devices such as gates and lights, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Currently, a yield sign is the only warning device at the crossing.
The village plans to install stop signs and pavement markings in place of the yield signs until further development in the industrial park occurs.
Flashing signals and gates will likely be needed in the future, officials said, and the village plans to pursue state and federal funding for those items.
The village is expected to pay for the new “passive” warning devices and will fund the paving of the roadway up to the crossing.
Doug Wood, legal counsel for the state agency, said a decision on railroad reconstruction plans could take up to 60 days.
A public information meeting on the project will be held later this month.