Oakdale gifts residents silent nights, just in time for the holidays

Aundrea Kinney/Review • After a final inspection, Oakdale will be a railroad quiet zone, where locomotive engineers will no longer be required to blow their train horns before reaching rail crossings at Oakdale streets. To avoid crossing collisions, signs and medians were installed at the city’s four at-grade crossings, such as the one on Hadley Avenue near Menards.

City’s rail crossings set to become quiet zones


Oakdale residents will soon be able to say goodbye to sleepless nights — or at least to waking up in the middle of the night to train horns blaring. 

The city will soon be a railroad quiet zone, where trains are no longer required to blow their horns as they usually would before reaching any of the city’s four at-grade railroad crossings.

The Union Pacific railroad bisects Oakdale in an east-west direction and crosses Ideal Avenue, Hadley Avenue, Granada Avenue and Geneva Avenue — otherwise known as Century Avenue or Highway 120.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Mayor Paul Reinke about the city becoming a quiet zone.

Reinke added he appreciates that the Regional Railroad Authority has a system in place to address the concerns residents have about train noise. He said that thirty years ago, the horns may have been fine, but today residents view them as a nuisance.

The city regularly receives resident complaints about the horns, said city engineer Brian Bachmeier. However, the horns are used for a reason. 

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, locomotive engineers are required under the Train Horn Rule to sound train horns before reaching all public grade crossings. This is to ensure the tracks remain clear and to avoid collisions.

“The maximum volume level for the train horn is 110 decibels, which is a new requirement,” the Federal Railroad Administration website says. “The minimum sound level remains 96 decibels.”

How loud is that? According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, a rock band five meters away is roughly comparable to 110 decibels, and a lawnmower one meter away is roughly comparable to about 96 decibels.

After the quiet zone is put into effect, railroad engineers will no longer blow their trains’ horns when crossing roads, except in emergencies.

However, before establishing Oakdale as a quiet zone, the Federal Railroad Administration required the city to mitigate the increased risk of a crossing collision that will come when trains stop sounding their horns at intersections.

Bachmeier explained that to meet this requirement, Oakdale installed signals and medians at the city’s four crossings.

Bachmeier said the intersection improvements cost the city $120,000, and were funded with a portion of Oakdale’s share of the state gas tax. Reinke said it was much more affordable than it was a few years back when the council previously considered quiet zones.

The need for quiet zone designation was determined about two years ago, according Bachmeier.

“The train horn was identified as a quality of life issue in our Neighborhood Preservation and Enhancement Initiative,” he said.

Community development director Bob Streetar explained that the initiative, which was adopted by the city council about a year and a half ago, aims to improve the quality of life and livability in Oakdale. He added that it’s important to the city because more than half the land in Oakdale is neighborhoods and about 60 percent of Oakdale’s tax base is residential. 

Streetar said the quiet zone designation is an example of making the city more livable.

The needed work at the crossings is now complete, and according to Reinke, the city is just waiting for the Regional Railroad Authority to perform the final inspection before the quiet zone will go into effect. 

Bachmeier estimated the horns will no longer blow as soon as Dec. 15.

Aundrea Kinney can be reached at 651-748-7822 or akinney@lillienews.com.

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