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Quiet zone plans range in cost, level of safety

Three quiet zone options were presented to the Perham Committee of the Whole at its March 30 meeting, all with varying costs and levels of railroad crossing safety, according to SRF Consulting Group Principal Richard Lane. Railroad improvements i...

Three quiet zone options were presented to the Perham Committee of the Whole at its March 30 meeting, all with varying costs and levels of railroad crossing safety, according to SRF Consulting Group Principal Richard Lane. Railroad improvements in Perham could result in quieter train passage, but come at a cost.

Each of the scenarios include improvements at 450th Avenue, 7th Avenue NE, Main Street and 2nd Avenue NE, 1st Avenue NE, 6th Avenue NW and County Highway 51. The only crossings excluded is at 425th Avenue and the Perham Municipal Airport crossings, which is a private crossing. While train horns would be quieted, bells would sound before the crossing arms were lowered in all the plans.

Scenario one improvements would consist of full and partial length non-traversable medians to prevent drivers from going around the lowered railroad gates. The medians would be approximately eight inches high, however, 1st Avenue NE has closely-spaced accesses which would limit the length of medians allowed. Cost for this plan is $330,000. If an accident were to occur at this intersection, the quiet zone may be compromised, and would require the city to install additional improvements to reduce future risks.

Lane recommended that the city go with plan two. Though more expense at $1,655,000, it also offered the highest level of safety, he said. The plan calls for a four-quadrant gate system and would be applied at Main Street/2nd Avenue NE, 1st Avenue NE, and 6th Avenue NW.

Annual maintenance costs would be $21,000, he said, but the lower accident risk factor and no loss of the quiet zone in the case of an accident would benefit the city in the long run.

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Lane said Main street and 2nd Avenue NE had the highest risk index, but Mayor Tim Meehl and the council thought the highest risk was at 6th Avenue crossing.

Klemm pointed out how the council came to that conclusion.

“A study was done (with the Minnesota Department of Transportation) a couple years ago and there were different factors we looked at, such as the amount of accidents, the proximity to city hall, to the fire hall and major employers,” Klemm said. “That’s how they came up with (6th Avenue as) the second highest risk in the state of Minnesota.”

The Federal Railroad Administration and SRF considered how many accidents occurred at the crossings and how much traffic uses each crossing, Lane said, which put Main Street and 2nd Avenue NE as high risk intersections.

The third plan would include closure of 2nd Avenue, which would significantly reduce the risk index for the corridor as a whole, Lane said. Cost of this plan is estimated at $220,000. The council did not like the idea of closing the 2nd Avenue crossing, they said, and would prefer a different plan that didn’t include the closure.

The council could choose one scenarios as presented, or they could mix and match elements, Lane said.

“You could do scenario one improvement and not the four-quadrant gate,” he said. “You still have the opportunity to mix and match at individual intersections, depending on the level of safety you want and how you feel about the cost implications.”

In other action:

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  • The city manager interview process was discussed and applications are due by April 15. To date, the council has received 10 applications. The council will review applications as they come in. There will be a special council meeting April 19 to discuss which candidates don’t qualify. Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7 are set aside for the informal interview process, to get to know the candidates. Following more formal interviews with the candidates on May 7, the field will be pared down to five.  
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