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ASK YOUR GOVERNMENT: Costs make more quiet rail unlikely

Each week, Herald reporter Brandi Jewett answers your questions about local government, laws and other local topics.

Q. As a downtown resident, I was super-thrilled when the quiet zones were put in at the railroad track crossings. Unfortunately, I can still hear train horns from other crossings nearby, like the University Avenue crossing near 10th Street North. Are there plans to put in more quiet zones at crossings like that?

A. A high price tag for creating more quiet zones will keep you from enjoying the sweet sound of silence in Grand Forks.

In 2011 the City of Grand Forks made improvements to seven railroad intersections in town to meet the quite zone requirements of the Federal Railroad Agency, according to city spokesman John Bernstrom.

Meeting these requirements came with a cost of approximately $378,000 for the seven intersections. The city received a grant from the state that covered $225,000 leaving the city to cover $153,000.

The quite zone process includes installing crossing arms and a barrier that keeps vehicles from going around the arms since there is no whistle to indicate how close the train is to the crossing.

Soundproofing the rest of the city won't be so cheap, according to a feasibility study done by the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The rail line that runs to the State Mill -- known as the Mill Spur -- has an additional nine crossings.

The feasibility study estimated that converting those nine intersections would cost around $3.3 million. The high cost stems from the amount of work that would have to be done, which includes adding the crossing arms, lights and closing three intersections.

Because of the high cost, the city decided not to do the work on those crossings.

Bernstrom reminds residents that even though a crossing is a quiet zone, it doesn't mean a train won't blow its whistle. If there is something blocking the tracks, the train will blow its whistle, wherever it is.

Missing guardrails

Q. I come into town from the north and take the DeMers Avenue interstate exit. There used to be guardrails on the side of the road as you come down the exit ramp, but they aren't there anymore. Why is this the case? I think that's dangerous, especially in the winter when things can get slippery.

A. It seems your memory could be playing tricks on you.

According to the North Dakota Department of Transportation, there were never guardrails on the offramp from Interstate 29 to DeMers Avenue.

As far as safety goes, there have been improvements made in hopes of making the ramps less dangerous.

Several years ago, additional signs were added to the ramps, which included arrows going around the loops and 25 mph speed limit signs leading up to the exit.

Improvements were also made to the onramps at that exit to accommodate the longer wind tower blades that come out of the city's industrial park. These improvements included widening the ramp to allow for wider turns.

Have questions? Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108 or (800) 477-6572 extension 1108, email, follow her on Twitter at @GFCityBeat or see her blog at