Railroad to close crossings at Pryam and Herder Streets

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Canadian Pacific Railroad plans to close Guttenberg crossings at Herder and Pryam Streets in exchange for 2016 maintenance on the Schiller Street crossing. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

Guttenberg city officials announced last week that two railroad crossings are scheduled for closure in 2016. Pryam Street, on the north side of the city near a lot owned by Kann Manufacturing, and Herder Street, which runs between St. Mary School and Kuempel True Value, will no longer be through streets from River Park Drive to Highway 52. 

“The crossings for closure are chosen from a list that Canadian Pacific Railroad would like to close,” said City Manager Mary Willett.  

“At our recent meeting we determined we would recommend Herder and Pryam to the city council for closing, primarily because of low traffic compared to the other 11 crossings. It will be an inconvenience to a few but the least disruptive overall,” Mayor Russ Loven told The Press.

Closures have previously been made on Washington Street near Darwin Duwe Field, and Weiland and Lessing Streets on the south side of town in residential areas. City officials will be speaking with Canadian Pacific personnel on a monthly basis, but those personnel could not be reached at press time to answer questions regarding the appearance of Herder and Pryam closings or whether pedestrian crossings would be maintained. 

“The looks of the crossings will be up to the Canadian Pacific, probably similar to Washington Street as an example,” said the mayor. “We will insist that they look attractive and people will be able to cross them.”

Discussions for upcoming crossing closures began in 2013. “The city staff and myself discussed the possibility of various closings as per Canadian Pacific request.  We weren’t excited about closing any, but we came up with a list of possibilities based on a variety of reasons. Herder and Pryam were among them,” recalled the mayor. 

In June of 2014, a train accident occurred at Herder Street. “The train had to stop for at least two hours to conduct an investigation and due to the length of this train, which was typical, all crossings in town were closed except the Marina Road and DeKalb Street,” said Mayor Loven. “Marina Road was closed due to high waters, so there was only one traffic exit in town at the time. This caused us to put a moratorium on further discussion of closings until we could meet with Canadian Pacific again.”

The city paid for the Schiller Street crossing to be improved in exchange for closures in 2015. “The closures are basically required by the railroad for us to get main crossings updated,” Willett told The Press. “Because we had not initiated any naming of closures, they sent the money back to the state for the Schiller crossings last year - without even contacting us.”

Several professional assessments of Guttenberg have named Schiller as the ideal route from Highway 52 to the downtown business and shopping district, so while improvements were predetermined and are unrelated to any planning for such an entryway, they will certainly make the crossing more smooth and attractive. 

“There are three sets of tracks at Schiller Street and it is possible that the Canadian Pacific will remove one of them,” explained Mayor Loven. “This improvement has nothing to do with the highlighting of Schiller being the main route to downtown Guttenberg, but it will enhance those future improvements.  Schiller Street already is the main route to downtown Guttenberg but it will become much more inviting under future plans.”

Recently renovated crossings include those at Hayden near the Guttenberg Municipal Swimming Pool and at Goethe Street near AutoTek Service Center. Canadian Pacific owns all crossings, but cities are responsible for maintenance. 

In the future, officials do not predict a significant impact on emergency vehicle efficiency due to closures at Pryam and Herder. “We are always updating and reviewing our emergency plans,” said the Mayor. “In the case of emergency train stoppage, the train engineer and CP traffic control can break the couplings and move cars at a strategic point in a matter of minutes – if there was a derailment it would be more complicated, but there are plans for opening up an exit crossing.”

Officials say the closures will not increase the speed limit of trains passing through Guttenberg, which is a maximum 40 miles per hour.  “The subjects of speed and the whistles have been broached repeatedly,” said Willett. “The Canadian Pacific spokesman said he would speak with the engineers again about the whistles going through town.” 

“We discussed the loudness of trains but no solution to this problem at this time,” added the mayor. “In this high-tech world I am sure there is some way we can tone down the sound.” Federal law requires whistles prior to each crossing, and with many crossings close together train whistles often seem almost non-stop in Guttenberg.

“Railroads have considerable control – almost as much as the Federal Government itself.  They are willing to make improvements on our many crossings if we are willing to close some crossings that are not as essential as others,” said Loven. “The more we can work together the better we will be in improving the quality of life and safety of our community, as well as those who travel through Guttenberg. Politics is the science of compromise and so I think this is the right thing to do.”

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