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Rowell: Zone to make crossings safer

Barriers meant to help quiet trains passing through Fargo-Moorhead will also make railroad crossings safer, says Rail Issues Task Force Chairman John Rowell.

Barriers meant to help quiet trains passing through Fargo-Moorhead will also make railroad crossings safer, says Rail Issues Task Force Chairman John Rowell.

"In essence, the corridor will be sealed," Rowell said. "It will not be easy for a pedestrian to get into harm's way."

The whistle-free zone, a $7 million, 8-year-old project, would stop the routine blowing of horns of the 70-plus trains that roll through Fargo-Moorhead on an average weekday.

To compensate for the loss of the horns, four railroad crossings would be closed and four-armed safety gates blocking all lanes of traffic would be added at the others. Pedestrian gates also will protect some crossings.

The process is inching toward completion. Officials plan to begin the first part of a two-year pilot project at the end of December, according to a memo from the Fargo-Moorhead Council of Governments.

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That first phase involves a four-month video monitoring of train crossings to measure their safety before four-armed gates are added or the trains stop sounding their horns.

The inspection of the crossings is needed because Fargo-Moorhead's quiet zone is a Federal Railroad Administration study of the projects' effectiveness.

Two intersections will be monitored in each city, said Brian Gibson, MetroCOG transportation analyst. In Fargo, the mainline intersections at Eighth Street and Broadway will be watched. Moorhead's Eighth Street and mainline and 11th Street and northline crossings also will be taped.

At the same time, Fargo and Moorhead officials will be working to complete a contract with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, the last piece necessary for the authorization of the project. The Federal Railroad Administration approved it in September.

The contracts likely will be finished in the next month or two, said MetroCOG Executive Director Bob Bright.

Only minor details are left to be worked out, Rowell said.

"In essence, everybody is on board and it's going to work," Rowell said.

Another part of the project will begin this fall, before the intersections are videotaped: a public service announcement and law enforcement campaign teaching people to stay out of intersections when trains approach.

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"People have to know -- when you see the lights start to flash -- just come to a stop," Rowell said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Joy Anderson at (701) 241-5556

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