Starting this week, most of Anoka will be included in a whistle-free zone for the trains passing through the city.
The 24-hour quiet zone has received approval from the Federal Rail Authority and goes into effect today (Friday, Nov. 15).
It comes after a lengthy effort by the city to reduce the amount of noise from the horns of trains passing through the city.
The quiet zone will apply to the Ferry Street and Fourth Avenue rail crossings in the city, said Public Services Director Greg Lee.
But horns will continue to sound when trains go through a crossing at Federal Premium Ammunition property, near the Main Street overpass.
Northstar Commuter Rail trains are also required to give two short whistles before taking off from the Anoka station, Lee said.
“So it doesn’t mean you won’t ever hear train horns sounding in Anoka, there just should be a lot less,” he said.
The quiet zone relieves engineers the requirement of having to whistle at every single crossing.
Last December a nighttime quiet zone went into effect in Anoka between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Lee said railroad staff will always have the option to sound the horn if they see an unsafe situation at a crossing – whether it be a vehicle, pedestrian or an animal.
It has taken the better part of two years to get this quiet zone established.
Lee said Minnesota Department of Transportation had asked the city to hold off on the 24-hour quiet zone until the state could make some changes to the roadway.
This summer MnDOT added a southbound escape lane to improve safety at the Ferry Street crossing.
“At most intersections drivers would be able to use a shoulder (on the road) but that intersection is pretty tight,” said Lee.
So the escape lane was added in place of a shoulder for safety.
As part of a project last year, the city of Anoka put in a median four feet wide at the Ferry Street crossing, although when MnDOT did its work late this summer that median was reduced to one foot, Lee said.
Train traffic continues to rise, which approximately 88 trains passing through Anoka every day, so reducing the number of horns sounding should be welcome quiet to those who live near the tracks, Lee said.
Other nearby communities also have railroad quiet zones. Andover established a quiet zone at the Bunker Lake Boulevard crossing in 2007, where concrete medians were put in to prevent people from driving around railroad crossing arms when they are down. The same thing was done to establish a quiet zone crossing at 161st Avenue in 2008.
Andover also has two crossings, at Andover Boulevard and Crosstown Boulevard where wayside horns were installed. These horns blow a series of recorded train horn sounds at a lower decibel level than a typical train.
Coon Rapids has had a whistle-free train zone in place throughout the city since 2006.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]