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Downtown Bismarck train horns could be silenced by Halloween

BISMARCK -- BNSF Railway presented its construction plans to Bismarck' traffic engineer, Mark Berg, on Thursday for the quiet rail infrastructure it will build at Third, Fifth and 12th streets in downtown Bismarck, according to City Commissioner ...

BISMARCK -- BNSF Railway presented its construction plans to Bismarck' traffic engineer, Mark Berg, on Thursday for the quiet rail infrastructure it will build at Third, Fifth and 12th streets in downtown Bismarck, according to City Commissioner Parrell Grossman.

The Bismarck City Commission approved its agreement with the railway about one year ago.

A quiet rail zone allows train horns to cease blaring when they come through motor vehicle traffic crossings if the gate infrastructure is deemed safe enough to protect vehicular traffic as well as pedestrians.

The Federal Railroad Administration requires trains to blare their horns at high volumes at unprotected crossings that do not meet quiet rail standards. Added features for the three Bismarck crossings will include flashing red lights, four-quadrant gates, protective fencing, pedestrian mazes and vehicle-motion detectors at each crossing.

Grossman said SRF Consulting and BNSF Railway have scheduled to install the conduit, foundation, wiring and electrical foundation starting in early May.

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"All of the equipment will be in place by Labor Day," said Grossman, explaining the equipment would be tested on a trial run for one month.

After the testing period ends, BNSF would file a notice of intent to activate the quiet rail, and that will follow another 30-day wait for train engineers to be notified of the transition, according to Grossman, who indicated that the horns are disruptive to hospitals, senior residential housing and downtown businesses.

The city will pay for the $2.8 million quiet rail system through its initial downtown tax increment finance district. That figure excludes engineering costs.

Most of the work will be completed by BNSF crews with the exception of minor signage and sidewalk work on 12th Street, Berg said.

"We got on their schedule. They got the equipment ordered. Shortly after, they can start," he said.

"It will have a most positive effect on development of downtown housing," said Kate Herzog, assistant director of the Bismarck Downtowners. "It adds a double amount of cross arms at the intersection and cross arms at the sidewalks. It will generally have a positive effect for the downtown and the community in general."

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