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Perham considers 'Quiet Zones' at railroad crossings

City officials are considering making Perham a "Quiet Zone." The designation would mean far less train noise, as crews would no longer be required to sound the horn at railroad crossings.

At a meeting last week, City Manager Kelcey Klemm brought a proposal to city councilors that includes several crossings through town. Klemm recommended hiring SRF Consulting Firm of Fargo to study what it would take to create a Quiet Zone in Perham.

To compensate for the loss of the train horn as a warning signal, Klemm explained, every crossing would need to meet certain safety guidelines before a Quiet Zone could be established. At minimum, flashing lights and crossing arms would be needed at each crossing, but other safety measures - such as road medians to prevent vehicles from turning around - may be required at some intersections.

Exactly what these requirements would be for Perham, and how much they may cost, are what SRF would determine.

While no action was taken at last week's meeting, the council seemed supportive of the idea. They mentioned that in a recent survey to residents, railroad noise was listed as the top concern.

Chuck Johnson, the city's economic development director, said about 60 freight and Amtrak trains pass through town in a typical day. As it is now, a loud horn is blown as the trains go through.

Councilor James Johnson, who lives just a few blocks from the tracks, said, "it's painful when I sit outside."

In a Quiet Zone, Klemm said, "the speed of trains is not necessarily reduced" and there will still be bells (of the "ding ding" sort). But the loud horns would no longer be such an issue.

Paying for SRF to come in and do the comprehensive study would cost the city about $17,000. Once the study is completed, the city would then be in a position to start implementing any needed safety improvements.

In initial talks, councilors suggested that any costs beyond that (for safety improvements that may be needed at crossings) could go to voters in a referendum.

Plans, however, are far from finalized at this point. The council has put the matter on its July meeting agenda.

"I think it's a good idea to pursue this and at least talk about it," Johnson said.