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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ramsey, Minn., residents hearing fewer trains

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Some Ramsey, Minn., residents living near railroad tracks should be sleeping a little better, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Two of the city's five rail crossings have been designated quiet zones where engineers no longer must sound train horns as they approach. The zones, which went into effect late last month, will extend more than a mile from Sunfish Lake Boulevard west along the BNSF tracks to Ramsey Boulevard.

"We've had a number of requests for quiet zones. The train horns are a nuisance for residents in the eastern half of the city," said Public Works Director Brian Olson. He said people have complained about horns sounding throughout the night and day.

Engineers on the Northstar commuter and freight trains are still required to blow their horns if railway workers or pedestrians are within 25 feet of the tracks, said Steve Forsberg, spokesman for BNSF. They also may use horns in emergencies, such as when there are animals on the tracks.

A requirement of quiet zones, regulated by the Federal Railroad Administration, is that "the risk to the public not increase when horns are not automatically blown," Forsberg said.

To gain approval for a quiet zone, the city had to install medians on both sides of the tracks to deter vehicles from illegally driving around crossing arms. The city had planned to upgrade the two boulevards anyway to add traffic and turn lanes leading up to Hwy. 10, Olson said.

The two crossing improvements, which totaled about $1 million, included funding for quiet zone signs and to raise the 100-foot-long median curbs by two inches to the six inches required by federal standards, Olson said. The Ramsey Boulevard crossing was upgraded in 2006 and Sunfish Lake in 2008, he said.

Ramsey has three other crossings, at Armstrong Boulevard, Alpine Drive and Puma Street on its western side, but there are no immediate plans to convert them to quiet zones, Olson said.

Coon Rapids and Fridley also have quiet zones. Forsberg said BNSF rail crossings also have quiet zones in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Minnetonka and Wayzata.

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