Anoka is taking a step toward partially becoming a whistle-free zone for the trains that pass through the city.
While staff have been pursuing a whistle free zone for quite a while, a night time quiet zone is expected to go into effect soon, according to Public Services Director Greg Lee.
“At this point it is anticipated that will be established in mid to late December,” said Lee.
The night time quiet zone will run from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. for the crossings at Ferry Street and Fourth Avenue.
Engineers will no longer be required to whistle before entering these intersections. Although the whistle will still be sounded at the crossing located on ATK property and the Northstar trains will also have two short whistles when they depart from the Anoka station.
“It won’t be completely silent, but it will be a lot quieter than it is today,” said Lee.
The city is also trying to move ahead on getting that quiet zone established 24 hours a day.
“The reason for (the delay) is MnDOT is currently working on several issues associated with the rail crossing on Ferry Street,” Lee said.
The northbound traffic is backing up and interfering with the intersection at Fourth Avenue, he said.
“There is also the issue of the gates at Fourth Avenue influencing the gates at Ferry Street and they are working with BNSF to fix that,” said Lee.
The safety arms at the Ferry Street crossing are coming down and staying down, when they don’t need to.
“Once they work out those issues we can apply for a full-time quiet zone and we anticipate that in the spring of 2013,” said Lee.
But there will be some times at those intersections the trains will still whistle.
Any time an engineer sees an unsafe situation the engineer can blow the horn, said Lee.
Councilmember Carl Anderson questioned if there were ever any discussions about improving safety at the Ferry Street railroad crossing.
“I’ve never seen a better candidate for a grade separation anywhere,” said Anderson. “I just don’t understand why we don’t work harder to getting a grade separation between Ferry Street traffic and BNSF.”
Lee said at this time, MnDOT does not have the funding available to purse a grade separation, which would ultimately be an underpass below the railroad tracks.
Planning Director Carolyn Braun said she has had informal discussions with MnDOT staff about this issue and the next step will be formally getting this potential project in the queue for consideration.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at email@example.com