By Jennifer Kotila
HOWARD LAKE, MN Due to residents’ complaints regarding trains blaring their horns for the 13th Avenue crossing, the Howard Lake City Council authorized a quiet zone feasibility report.
The report was presented to the council at a workshop Dec. 6 by city engineer Barry Glienke.
Currently, the crossing is being considered for upgrades by Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF), which include gates, warning bells and lights, and improvements to the crossing surface.
The city will be able to piggyback with the railroad if it decides to proceed with any of the improvements that would meet quiet zone requirements, noted Glienke.
In order for a railroad crossing to qualify as a quiet zone, it must fall below the risk index set by the Federal Railroad Administration.
With the addition of crossing gates by BNSF, the crossing would meet one condition for creating a quiet zone, and would fall below the risk index, Glienke said.
However, using this method, the crossing must be evaluated on a yearly basis to make sure it remains below the risk index, and several factors could change its status, Glienke noted.
Glienke did not consider this a practical option for the city, due to the potential for termination of the quiet zone from year to year, according to the report.
Glienke therefore suggested the city consider several options to install supplemental safety measures at the crossing to bring it below the “risk index with horns.”
This would allow the crossing to permanently be a quiet zone, and would be the safest and most logical option for creating a quiet zone, according to Glienke.
Glienke also provided cost estimates for the project, along with the city’s share of the cost, for each option.
Options one and two include installing four-quadrant gates at the crossing, which are two gates set directly across from each other blocking traffic the full width of the crossing.
The first option leaves the street leading to the crossing as a gravel surface, while option two includes a bituminous street surface.
Option three also includes a four-quadrant gate system, but widens the road to 39 feet, adding curb and gutter to match the existing street to the south.
The fourth option includes installation of non-traversable medians extending 60 feet to the south, and 100 feet to the north.
It also includes widening the street to 39 feet and adding curb and gutter.
This option would require closing the adjacent intersections north and south of the crossing, as well as narrowing the driveway to the south.
In consideration of the four options, the council should keep in mind that for the four-quadrant gate system, BNSF requires a minimum yearly maintenance fee of approximately $10,000, Glienke noted.
Also, each of the options includes replacing the culverts north and south of the crossing, which is necessary to provide adequate drainage.
The estimated costs of the four options range from $496,360 to $629,950, with option one and four being the least costly, and option three the most.
The estimated cost to the city would be between $196,360 and $329,950, depending onwhich option was chosen.
A final decision about the railroad quiet zone will be made at a future council meeting.