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Road project could shut down crossing for a year

New York Mills residents could run into a lengthy detour around the South Main railroad crossing during a scheduled street reconstruction project next summer.

With the Otter Tail County Highway 67 project slated to begin in 2010, engineers recently met with railroad officials to discuss the crossing on South Main/67.

The initial assessment indicates travel to the south side of town could create inconveniences as the crossing could possibly be shut down for one full year.

The street reconstruction rehabilitation is a joint project between the county and the city, but to complete the project and cross the tracks the project must get the okay from Burlington Northern Santa Fe.

Due to federal regulations on railroad crossing standards, the city and county cannot shut the crossing down and reopen it with existing rail arms that are currently in place. The arms must be upgraded, which takes 15 to 18 months advance planning and notice.

According to information provided by the city of New York Mills, the railroad will pick up only 20 percent of the railroad crossing replacement. The county would have to fund the balance of the cost. An initial estimate is the new crossing would cost about $400,000. However, the county and city are taking steps to get a more firm cost estimate.

Once the crossing is shut down, it cannot be reopened until the crossing arms and related items are upgraded for the new standards. If the county and city proceed with the project in 2010, the South Main crossing would conceivably be shut down from July, 2010 to July, 2011.

The information and estimates are from early meetings with the railroad and alternatives are still being reviewed.

Originally, the County had the CSAH 67 project planned for 2011, but earlier this year decided to move the project up one year with the availability of federal stimulus funding.

The city's share will likely be paid in part with a PFA loan, which is an annual competitive application and award process for funding. NY Mills is being considered for funding in 2010 but not in 2011. If the project is moved 2011, the city would possibly have to re-apply for PFA funding.