Let’s make Northfield a train ‘quiet zone’

In the Northfield soon to be without a cineplex discussion thread, Anne Bretts wrote about a theater chain owner/developer:

When he was still excited about the project he said that the Q-block wouldn’t have enough parking and the property owners weren’t to sell. But he said the key problem was that he wouldn’t put a movie theater next to railroad tracks because there was no effective way to soundproof the building.

girlhandsonhead When Heidi Hamilton was City Engineer, she began pursuing the possibility of making Northfield a ‘no horn zone’ for train whistles. I’m not sure what ever happened to that effort.  Did it get derailed (heh) because of costs?

I was in Winona a month ago and saw one of their RR crossings with a big sign that said something like “Caution: train horn will not sound.” And earlier this year, Madison, Wisconsin created three quiet zones, according to this article in U of W’s Daily Cardinal: ‘Quiet zones’ silence city’s train whistles at select crossings: New gates, lights increase safety at railroad tracks.

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According to Steve Sonntag, Madison’s pavement engineer, the city passed an ordinance banning train whistles at some intersections in 2001, but a 2006 federal law requiring improvements at each railroad crossing slowed the process.

Along with gates and flashing lights, federal regulations require each crossing to have an electronic notifier to calculate the speed of the train and trigger the gate to come down. The crossings must also have a battery backup and a power-off option so engineers will know if crossing signals or gates are not functioning properly.

Sonntag said the city has completed the necessary improvements and made it safe for trains to sound horns only when an engineer recognizes “imminent danger” in the crossing.

The City of Moorhead has a quiet zone page on its website. And the citizens of Fairfield, Iowa have taken matters into their own hands with a “Railroad Crossings Citizen’s Action Committee” called the Fairfield Train Safety & Quiet Zone.

Why not a ‘quiet zone’ in Northfield?


  1. David Ludescher said:

    Talk to current Chamber president, Jeff Hasse, who also owns the Country Inn. Bob Stangler worked hard on getting noise-free Northfield when he was on the Council. Scott Neal could probably tell you off the top of his head. Plus, City staff could get you the answer quickly.

    My understanding was that Hasse or the Chamber looked into the possibility of Highway 19. The cost was something like $176,383.69 for the railroad to put in the safety measures, which is a cost that they would require the City to pay.

    June 28, 2008
  2. Felicity Enders said:

    Wow, what a great idea! Think what it would do for businesses and housing near the tracks. I would think it’s worth the price, though maybe something to plan for in a couple years since the pricetag is so high.

    June 28, 2008
  3. David Koenig said:

    David L’s figures sound close to what I recall as well. We were told that we would have to have gates that come across the full road, on both sides.

    I also seem to recall that when Scott Neal first contacted the railroad there was a noticeable increase in the frequency and length of train whistles when they came through town at night. Or, it seemed that way, anyhow.

    June 28, 2008
  4. Nick Benson said:

    $40,000 for rebranding the hospital is absurd, but $175,000 to get the trains to stop honking 10 times a day is good investment? The tracks were there long before any of those homes or businesses were. The fact that there’s a hotel next to the track isn’t the City’s fault – why should we pay to fix it?

    June 28, 2008
  5. It took a while to get used to the horns, but now I think of them fondly.
    While living in a student house in Chicago, a major freight train passed within 600 feet of my bedroom and somehow after a week or so, I learned to sleep right thru it.

    I have lost a teen age neighbor boy in Indiana to a faulty train mechanism.
    It’s sadder than any inconvenience I may ever endure crossing a train track.

    June 29, 2008
  6. Even for $175k, I can’t imagine that the trains could ever be truly safe without horns. You certainly wouldn’t be able to surround the tracks with a fence the whole way through town for that sum. And even if it made the crossings more secure, I can’t imagine every crossing would get covered (what about, for example, where the Mill Towns Trail crosses — or the Sechler Park driveway off Armstrong Road?).

    I don’t think it’s worth the safety risk. Also, I kind of enjoy hearing the sound in the background.

    (Oh, and I wouldn’t want to break the sarcasm rule, but if no such rule existed, I might have opened this comment with by comparing noise reduction through eliminating train horns to light reduction by eliminating car headlights.)

    June 29, 2008
  7. BruceWMorlan said:

    Does anyone have a handy inventory and cost estimates list showing all the crossings (including pedestrian) in the Dundas-Northfield area? Such a list should be the starting point for any discussion on this idea, even if you hope to spend other people’s money to make it happen.

    January 22, 2013

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