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You shall not pass...without safety precautions

Routine repairs are scheduled later this summer for the railroad crossing on County Road 14 in downtown Miltona. Flashing lights and gates were added in 1991 following a school bus and train collision in November 1990 in which two people died. (Echo Press photo by Crystal Dey)1 / 2
An overhaul including flashing light signals, gates and constant warning circuitry is planned for the railroad crossing on County Road 36 north of Miltona. (Echo Press photo by Crystal Dey)2 / 2

The railroad crossing two miles north of Miltona on County State Aid Highway (CSAH)36 will be receiving substantial safety upgrades at no cost to Douglas County.

Soo Line Railroad Company, doing business as Canadian Pacific Railway, has entered into an agreement with Douglas County to install new flashing light signals with gates, constant warning circuitry and LED lenses at the site.

Presently, stop-signs are the only safety precaution.

"In this case, statewide safety funds will cover 100 percent of the cost."

Dave Robley, Douglas County Engineer/Public Works Director

At the June 25 county board meeting Douglas County Public Works Director and County Engineer Dave Robley informed commissioners that the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) handles railroad signals.

"In this case, statewide safety funds will cover 100 percent of the cost," Robley said. "It used to be 90 percent and the county would pay 10 percent."

The railroad will install, maintain and operate the signals.

As part of the CSAH 36 agreement, should any iron or steel used cost $2,500 or more it must be purchased in the United States to satisfy a Buy American provision, as outlined in the contract. Work is expected to be completed within 18 months after the railroad receives authorization to begin the project.

The state of Minnesota is expected to pay Soo Line Railroad Company with reimbursable federal funds. The project is estimated to cost $210,076.

Additional railroad crossing repair is scheduled for late July or early August. One location is where the rail line intersects County Road 14 in Miltona; another is at 34th Avenue (County Road 46) east of the Viking Plaza Mall in Alexandria.

On November 16, 1990, a student and bus driver were killed at the County Road 14 crossing when a Soo Line train collided with a District 206 bus. Two years prior, a family of three also died in a vehicle and train collision at that location. In August 1991, flashing warning lights and automatic crossing gates were installed.

St. Cloud based Design Electric has been awarded a contract to install a traffic signal at Pioneer Road and CSAH 46. The project is a joint venture with the city of Alexandria. Douglas County is responsible for half the cost. The engineer's estimate was $235,000. Design Electric bid $164,750. Granite Ledge Electrical Contractors bid $175,537.

WALK THIS WAY

There seems to be some confusion over how to cross the street in the vicinity of Bug-A-Boo Bay and Zorbaz on Lake L'Homme Dieu in Alexandria.

Commissioner Charlie Meyer, Robley, the city of Alexandria Highway Committee and owners of Bug-A-Boo Bay and Zorbaz met in June to discuss options for a crosswalk on CSAH 42, the road that separates the businesses from the waterfront.

"With additional traffic in the area, it would increase the safety and visibility."

Dave Robley, Douglas County Engineer/Public Works Director

Robley said the county has been working with the owners of Bug-A-Boo Bay on reconstruction and relocation of the crosswalk. Since the beginning of discussions, ownership of the property that is now Zorbaz has changed.

Proposed solutions from the meeting with the highway committee included putting up pedestrian crossing signs, constructing a sidewalk on the east side of the road and both businesses using the same crosswalk location to access their docks. However, property lines crossed where the shared walk would be, which wasn't ideal.

"There was not a lot of interest there," Robley said of the businesses sharing a crosswalk. "The recommendation that came out of [the highway committee meeting] was to increase the marking in the area and the visibility to make [the crossing] more conspicuous."

Two crosswalks are planned with new pavement markings, additional signage and solar-powered flashing LED lights. Signals will be activated by a button on the post.

"With additional traffic in the area, it would increase the safety and visibility," Robley said. "Safety is really the goal."

Commissioner Bev Bales said the warning lights would forewarn motorists and pedestrians of a "blind curve" in the area. The crosswalk lights would be linked to an advanced sign north of the curve. Robley said a sign would not be needed south of the crosswalk since the visibility from the south is not as obstructed.

Robley said the pavement markings will only cost a couple hundred dollars, the LED signs cost $5,000 each. Who is picking up the cost of the upgraded crossings has not yet been finalized. The county plans to approach the city of Alexandria regarding partial responsibility for the crosswalks.

"Mr. Robley did a nice job trying to keep it down to one crosswalk," Meyer said. "Landowners were not cooperative."

A similar sign arrangement is being pursued with the Brandon School District, however the district is paying for signs.

Douglas County and the Brandon School District agreed to cooperate in the installation and maintenance of two school crossing signs. Wireless, solar, push-button blinker LED school crossing signs will be installed on Central Avenue at 4th and 5th Streets in Brandon.

The county will be responsible for labor and installation of the crossing systems. The district will pay the county for the sign systems and for any materials needed to maintain the systems in the future. Initial cost will be $4,950 per intersection.

The county has not yet approached Bug-A-Boo Bay or Zorbaz business owners regarding cost sharing. Robley said if the county picks up the cost, the Brandon School District sign agreement should be revisited.

DeyCrystal Dey Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota's Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter at @CrystalDey_Echo.

Crystal Dey

Crystal Dey is a staff reporter for the Echo Press. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey worked for newspapers in North Dakota, Florida and Connecticut before returning to her home state to join the Echo Press in October 2011. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Staff Reporter Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.

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