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Two railroad quiet zones established in Shoreview, more to come next year
Two at-grade railroad crossings in Shoreview, one at Lexington Avenue and another at Victoria Street, both near County Road E, are now railroad quiet zones as of Aug. 6, following the completion of improvements at both crossings.
These two quiet zones, paid for by the city of Shoreview, are the first tangible results of efforts to manage train noise in the area. In addition, nearly $2 million of state bonding money will be used in both Shoreview and Little Canada over the coming years to improve eight more railroad crossings so they can be considered quiet zones as well.
Rules adopted by the Federal Railroad Administration in 2005 mandate that all trains approaching street-level railroad crossings, such as those at Lexington and Victoria avenues, must sound their horns four times, beginning no more than 20 seconds before the train reaches the crossing.
Exemptions to those rules--railroad quiet zones--are allowed by the FRA when crossings meet a handful of traffic control and signage requirements, including crossing gates, medians that keep cars within their lanes and signage that tells drivers and pedestrians that train horns are not used at the crossing.
The improving economy and the Bakken formation oil boom in North Dakota has brought a significant increase in train traffic to Shoreview and neighboring Little Canada over the past couple of years.
Shoreview Mayor Sandy Martin had previously said she was unaware of any other issue that had as profound an effect on residents’ quality of life as the recent increase in train noise, especially in the south of the city.
Martin said that while the two quiet zones had just been established, she was already hearing from city council members that residents living near the zones were pleased with them and how quickly they came together.
The Shoreview City Council authorized the two quiet zones at a May 19 council meeting with a unanimous vote. The city opted to make both crossings 24-hour quiet zones, in order to establish a baseline assumption that train horns will not be used at all at the crossings (some quiet zones are only in affect at night).
The improvements at the Lexington Avenue crossing were relatively simple. One of the center medians on the southern side of the crossing was extended and “no train horn” sings were installed on both sides of the road.
According to Shoreview city manager Terry Schwerm, the Victoria Avenue crossing was already set to be improved significantly as part of a separate road project. Plans included medians and crossing gates, requiring the city to simply install “no train horn” signage for the crossing to qualify as a quiet zone.
Schwerm said that estimates for the two quiet zones came in at $15,000, but the actual cost came in under budget at no more than $12,000, not including the improvements at Victoria Street which were budgeted as a seperate project.
Construction was completed on both crossings in July. The FRA requires a quiet zone application and a 21-day waiting period to follow. That waiting period ended Aug. 6.
Future quiet zones
Using some $500,000 of state bonding money, Shoreview will upgrade railroad crossings at Jerrold Avenue and North Owasso Boulevard to the tune of about $250,000 each in about a year.
For those crossings, Schwerm said the city, along with the state and railroads, are “very close to having the plans completed,” adding that the Jerrold and North Owasso crossings required significant work with more extensive planning because the railroad would schedule and perform the construction work.
Little Canada will use $1.25 million to improve crossings at Woodlyn Avenue, South Owasso Boulevard, Little Canada Road, Demont Avenue, County Road B and County Road B2, at a cost of about $250,000 to $350,000 each.
Joel Hanson, Little Canada city administrator, said he was hopeful that work to create quiet zones in the city would commence next year.
Mike Munzenrider can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-748-7824. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.