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Dickinson quiet zone improvements estimated at $1.5M

Press Photo by Katherine Grandstrand City officials are working to create a railroad quiet zone within and near Dickinson’s borders. Recently, an engineering firm suggested $1.5 million worth of safety improvements to help end mandatory horn blowing at crossings like this one, near the Patterson Lake Recreation Area, shown Saturday.

Campers at Dickinson’s Patterson Lake Recreation Area are warned that the camper sites are located near the train tracks and that it can be loud.

“At the get-go they don’t actually understand how loud that is,” said Matt Mack, facilities operations manager for the Dickinson Parks and Recreation Department. “They do say it would be a lot better campground without the train coming through.”

Dickinson is working to make the city a railroad quiet zone, which wouldn’t eliminate the sound of the train rattling down the track, but would end unnecessary warning horns.

A quiet zone eliminates the requirement that a passing train blow its horn, but it does not take away the conductor’s ability to blow the horn in city limits should the occasion call for it, said Amy McBeth, spokeswoman for BNSF.

“There are many instances where, even in a quiet zone, according to federal regulations, the horn will still be sounded,” McBeth said. “That’s in cases of people or animals near the tracks or workers near the tracks. The horn is used for safety.”

The upgrades to six of its 11 crossings within the city limits will cost nearly $1.5 million — with the cost to the city around $261,000. The costs will be shared with BNSF.

The safety measures are needed to bring down the risk level that is elevated when horns are eliminated, said Rick Lane, principal engineer for SRF Consulting Group Inc., a Fargo-based engineering firm.

“In order to get a quiet zone, your quiet zone risk index either has to be below that national level or it has to be below the risk index you started with while the horns were blowing,” Lane said.

The crossings SRF is looking to improve are on 114th Avenue Southwest, 30th Avenue West, Third Avenue East, Sixth Avenue East, 10th Avenue East and Lehigh Road.

Each crossing requires a different set of safety features to make sure they are just as safe as they were before the horns stopped, Lane said. The city would not have to implement all $1.5 million worth of changes to keep its risk levels below the threshold.

Once all improvements are decided upon, it can take up to 18 months to implement all changes, Lane said.

The quiet zone designation is defined by the Federal Railroad Administration and it is common for cities to improve safety measures to attain the quiet zone designation, said Cheryl Bonebrake, FRA grade crossing regional manager, from her Minot office.

“There might be some locations where they don’t need an equipment upgrade,” Bonebrake said. “Maybe they already have the proper equipment in place.”

Plans are not final and city staff will continue to work with outside engineers to determine which upgrades should be implemented to make Dickinson a quiet zone.

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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