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SSSHHH! Beach joins growing community of quiet zones

A BNSF train passes through the quiet zone Oct. 24, 2011, in Moorhead, Minn. A quiet zone was established in Medora more than two years ago, and most recently in Beach.

The sleepy border town of Beach might offer a more restful night's sleep starting next spring after work to make the community of 1,019 a quiet zone for passing trains is complete.

City officials have worked for three years to turn Beach into a railroad quiet zone, similar to what was done in Medora more than two years ago. Trains passing through a quiet zone do not have to blow their horns, unless there is an emergency.

"We had numerous inquiries from residents if there was anything that could be done to quiet the trains and slow the trains down as they come through town," City Auditor Kim Nunberg said.

To become a quiet zone, Beach had to upgrade its crossings to prevent people from sneaking around the arms, said part-time City Engineer Terry Boehm from the Bismarck office of Kadrmas, Lee and Jackson.

The initiative had to be approved by both BNSF and the Federal Railroad Administration, he said.

"It is quite a lengthy process," Boehm said. "This process has been going on for almost two years now to get that final approval."

The project received two grants of $75,000 from the North Dakota Department of Transportation for each crossing, Boehm said. The city will know the total price of the project once bids come in. It is expected to be complete by May 31.

The people of Beach have wanted a quiet zone for years, Nunberg said.

"We had heard Medora established a quiet zone and that prompted citizens here to also make the request," she said. "We got notice two-and-a-half weeks ago now that the quiet zone was approved."

With the upgrades, there is little concern over safety, Boehm said.

"There are things that we're going to have to do like install concrete curb medians in the middle of the roadway, we'll have to install additional signing, things like that prior to it actually becoming a quiet zone," he said.

Residents of Medora have enjoyed their quiet zone, Mayor Doug Ellison said.

"It's been great," he said. "Well worth the time and effort, I think."

There was some concern in the planning stages that Medora might lose some of its old west charm if the train stopped blowing its whistle, Ellison said. But trains don't have whistles anymore.

"They're not whistles, they're airhorns," he told dissenters. "I like steam whistles too, but these are not steam whistles."

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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