Anoka’s quiet zone put on hold for now

Anoka’s project to establish a whistle-free quiet zone for trains passing through the city has been temporarily derailed.

The city has been working to eliminate train whistles at the Ferry Street and Fourth Avenue rail crossings for some time by taking specific safety measures to allow for the reduction of horn use.

“We had a clear plan on how to establish this,” said Public Services Director Greg Lee. “We initiated a project this spring where we put in center medians and did additional signage to establish [a quiet zone].”

Lee said the city has been working with the Federal Rail Authority, BNSF, MnDOT and Anoka County to get the whistle free zone in place.

“As part of this as the project was proceeding the Federal Rail Authority along with BNSF was understanding there was an issue with the crossing at Ferry Street that was being influenced by the Northstar train,” Lee said.

The arms were going down, then up, then quickly back down again, he said.

In addition, there have been a couple of reports of the arms being down at the Ferry Street crossing for an extended period of time, said Lee.

This caused long backups on both Ferry Street and Highway 10.

“At that time there was an issue with cars realizing the train wasn’t there and they were driving around the gates,” Lee said. “We had another report from a local business man that this was occurring again on June 5.”

In light of those problems, the agencies working with the city withdrew their support of the quiet zone project until the issues with the rail crossings can be fixed.

“So we’re still working with MnDOT to establish this, but it might take some time to work through this,” Lee said.

A set of signs reading “horn does not sound” have been taken down for the time being. Once the quiet zone is established the signs will go back up.

“Right now the horns do blow for all trains crossing at Ferry Street and Fourth Avenue,” said Lee.

At this point Lee doesn’t know when the quiet zone project will eventually go ahead.

Councilmember Steve Schmidt acknowledged the city has been working for a long time to establish the whistle-free zone.

“We can’t have an accident there because it’s not working right,” said Schmidt.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]