City continues to pursue quiet zones
By Tara Nelson
City officials are continuing to pursue a quiet zone designation for two railroad crossings in Blaine.
If approved by the city council, the designation would allow the city to install specialized electronic horns at railroad crossings at Bell and Hughes roads, so trains can avoid blowing their horns in those residential areas.
The federally-issued quiet zone designation was approved last year and allow cities to prevent trains from blowing their horns within a half-mile of a designated crossing if certain safety measurements such as flashing lights, gates and power-out indicators are in place.
Current federal law mandates trains traveling at 45 miles per hour have to sound their horn for 15 seconds before entering a crossing. The rule would also absolve train engineers from the liabilities stemming from a train-vehicle collision within an established quiet zone.
In a regular meeting of Blaine city council last week, Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic told council members he met with state department of transportation officials and representatives from Railroad Crossing Limited, a Ft. Worth, Texas-based manufacturer, to test the wayside horn equipment, which directs a digital recording of a train horn toward traffic and away from neighboring homes.
“It’s amazing how effective those horns are at reducing the tone of the noise,” Tomsic said. “If you stand just 90 degrees of the horn you can hardly hear it.”
Tomsic said the next step will be to form a diagnostic team with representatives from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Department of Transportation and other agencies.
The equipment and installation would cost around $200,000, and be funded by a local improvement district (LID) in combination with the city’s LID guarantee fund. Tomsic, however, said he will have a better cost estimate in about 30 days.
“If the folks down in that neighborhood are interested enough, I think we can get it done,” he said. “If not, we all learned a lot about quiet zones and wayside horns.”
Tomsic said he plans to bring the proposal before city council for a public hearing within the next few months.