May 14, 2007

Ninth Street set to open Tuesday

Necessary criteria met to keep intersection ‘quiet zone’

By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

With the opening of Ninth Street between Elm Avenue and Highway 12 set for Tuesday morning, crews have been busy making sure the railroad crossing arms are ready to go.

This extra artery through Delano has been something that has been in the works since the 1980s, commented City Engineer Kent Torve of Wenck Associates.

He said an article from the April 8, 1985 edition of the Delano Eagle outlined the city’s plans to close the railroad crossing at Third Street, and construct a new railroad crossing at 8th Street.

These street improvement concepts have been part of the City of Delano’s transportation planning efforts for more than 20 years, and were also included in the city’s 1993 and 2002 comprehensive plans.

“It relieves Elm Avenue of some traffic, and as population increases, it provides a third route to the school,” Torve said, adding it also provides for a safer railroad crossing.

Some 20 years after its original conception, Delano residents will now see a through street on Ninth Street. Torve said when a new city street is opened, usually traffic is allowed on it as soon as the base course of paving is down, but this is a different case.

“A new road over a railroad crossing is a much more complicated situation,” he said. “It involves MnDOT, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, the county on Third Street, the city, and the city’s contractor – it’s quite a bit more complicated on the road opening and its residents.”

Torve said the original schedule called for a spring opening for Ninth Street, but the city was ahead of schedule in the fall, so it was scheduled for a winter opening. In early March, it was bumped back again to May.

“Our streetlights weren’t operational, so we delayed to the spring opening again,” he said.

During construction, conduit was placed in the ground to enable electric wiring of the streetlights. The lights were delivered in early February and readied for installation, but the conduit experienced some water infiltration in the fall and early winter, and was blocked by ice.

The ice blockage prevented the contractor from extending the necessary electric lines to power the light poles.

With the road opening, Torve said the trail paving and final restoration for the project will be complete by June.

Opening a new railroad crossing in Delano

An old railroad crossing on Third Street in Delano was closed to traffic early this year, in anticipation of the opening of the Ninth Street crossing.

In constructing Ninth Street, planners also had a center median installed, which allows for the crossing to be a “quiet zone,” Torve said.

“Federal studies show that the median eliminates about all of the drive-arounds,” Torve said, eluding to people who drive around the crossing arms to avoid having to wait for a train to pass by.

On average, 11 trains a day pass through the Delano intersections, with six of these trains passing through during daytime hours, according to a report on the issue. It was noted that the actual number of trains can vary seasonally, and that during the fall “grain rush,” the line can experience more than 20 trains per day, while other times of the year, there may be as few as five or six.

The report also stated the maximum speed of trains at the Delano intersections is 40 miles per hour.

So, when can residents expect to hear those train whistles?

Torve said the railroad prefers to open crossings under the quiet zone designation, or one where whistles are not blown.

Both eastbound and westbound trains will still blow whistles prior to entering the crossing at County Line Road near Stahlke Bus. Other than that, trains headed west through Delano will not blow whistles again until 72nd Street.

Trains should not blow whistles beyond that, at the new Ninth Street crossing, the old Third Street crossing, or the River Street overpass.

When whistles are blown, Torve said, based on the speed of the train, whistles are blown in a series of one long blast, two short blasts, and one long, as the train approaches the crossing. According to regulations, blasts are not to be more than 20 seconds in length, or less than 12 seconds.

“They don’t blow after the crossing,” Torve added.

The City of Delano will be opening the new Ninth  Street and its railroad crossing Tuesday, May 15 at 10 a.m.  

“We will have a brief ribbon cutting and refreshments for those interested in attending,” commented City Administrator Phil Kern.   

Torve said it will be a small event, with current and previous council members, and after that, the road will be open for traffic.

Ninth Street ribbon cutting event Tuesday

The City of Delano will be conducting a small ribbon cutting event Tuesday, May 15 at 10 a.m. to commemorate the opening of Ninth Street and its railroad crossing.

The event is open to the public, and refreshments will be served.

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