Little Canada and Shoreview brace for the sound of silence


Xcel Energy power connections are needed to finish quiet zone work at the Jerrold Avenue railroad crossing in Shoreview and another crossing in Little Canada. Houses sit fewer than 50 feet from the Jerrold crossing, where trains are still required to sound their whistles until the quiet zone is in place. (Mike Munzenrider/Review)

The eight train whistle quiet zones that should be completed in June in Shoreview and Little Canada cover a roughly 2.5-mile stretch of railroad tracks in the cities. (courtesy of Google Maps)

Railroad quiet zones expected to be complete in June

Some two years after the Legislature set aside $2 million to create railroad quiet zones in Little Canada and Shoreview, the loud train whistles that disturbed so many residents may finally fall silent in June.

That’s according to a quiet zone news update posted to the Little Canada city website April 18, which said railroad construction necessary for the zones being carried out by Canadian Pacific Railway was nearly complete.

Little Canada city administrator Joel Hanson said following the completion of the work, which includes installing crossing bars and signage at crossings, among other things, the city will then have a 21-day notice period during which it will let the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration know the quiet zones are ready.

Hanson estimates the waiting period should be over in just more than a month.

“When that date comes we should be good to go,” he said.

Shoreview city manager Terry Schwerm confirmed that his city is looking at a similar timeline.

“That’s the latest information we have,” he said.

Residents in southern Shoreview and the west side of Little Canada have been dogged by noisy train whistles at crossings for years — residents in eastern Roseville have written letters to the Review to note they hear the horns as well. 

The increase in train traffic in the area, which has led to the increase in whistle use, is widely credited to the oil boom in the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota and the transportation needs of oil producers.

Train conductors are required by federal law to sound their horns where tracks cross roads if crossings aren’t designated quiet zones — while the sole purpose for the whistle blasts is safety, they can be heard for miles.

 

Calls continue

A total of 10 crossings in the two cities were identified for equipment upgrades to make them quiet zones. In Shoreview the crossing were at Lexington, Victoria and Jerrold avenues, along with North Owasso Boulevard.

In Little Canada, the crossings were at Woodlynn Avenue, South Owasso Boulevard, Little Canada Road, Demont Avenue, County Road B2 and County Road B.

The necessary upgrades, piggybacked onto already planned projects, were carried out by Shoreview at Victoria and Lexington in the summer of 2014 for around $15,000 on top of existing costs.

Shoreview applied $500,000 worth of state money for its remaining crossings and Little Canada received $1.5 million for it’s six, while planning for extra expenses of more than $200,000, using city money.

Hanson said the final bills from the railroad for the crossing upgrades have yet to show up, though he said he’s “somewhat hopeful” the bills will be for less than originally estimated.

With much of the construction work at crossings visibly done, Hanson said residents have been calling to inquire why the horns still blow.

“It’s all eight signals that are a part of the quiet zone,” Hanson said.

“It doesn’t do much good to have a quiet zone less than a half mile from the crossing” that isn’t one, Schwerm said, adding that he and Shoreview Mayor Sandy Martin continue to get calls from homeowners as well.

Both city officials said they’d never before experienced anything like the years of calls from residents seeking relief from railroad noise.

“We probably received as many calls on this issue as any issue before,” Schwerm said. 

Hanson added, “In my career of public administration I can say this issue generated the most calls of concern.”

Indeed, a Little Canada resident who let loose with an expletive-laced directive during an August 2015 call to the Review, telling the newspaper in essence to “make the train noise stop, now!” may be getting his wish.

“It was just a very slow process,” Hanson said, noting the levels of coordination needed between his city, Shoreview, the state and federal governments and the railroad.

“There were many hoops to jump through,” he said, “and it looks like we’re almost through them all.”

 

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.

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