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Jessica Ballou, Published June 28 2012

Casselton’s rail quiet zone takes effect

CASSELTON, N.D. – A new quiet zone policy that went into effect here Thursday should make the blaring sound of train horns a thing of the past.

The quiet zone should have a wide effect in the city. Many businesses and residences are located along the main stretch of town on Langer Avenue and Front Street, including First State Bank, situated just south of the main railroad tracks.

Even though some residents said about half of the trains that passed through Casselton on Thursday still used their horns, day-to-day operations were more peaceful at the bank.

“It doesn’t interrupt our daily work,” customer service representative Jess McMullen said. “(Today) is going great. We love it.”

Klevgard said she hopes the train engineers who still sounded their horns on the quiet zone’s first day were acting out of habit and will soon remember to lay off the whistles in Casselton.

The final cost so far is estimated at $1.09 million, just under the $1.2 million projected budget, said City Auditor Sheila Klevgard.

Klevgard said BNSF bills the city at the beginning of each month for construction costs, and the final bill will arrive next week.

The project will be paid with sales tax, a decision that was put to a citywide vote a few years ago.

Rory Petersen, owner of Hardware Hank’s on the north side of the railroad tracks, isn’t in favor of the quiet zone. He feels there are other projects that could have used the million-dollar budget more.

“Everyone will have to suffer,” Petersen said. “I’m totally against that.”

If the front door of the business was closed, Petersen said he could hardly hear the horns of trains as they passed. Even if the door was open, it hardly created a ruckus.

“I grew up here, so I’m used to it,” he said.

Public Works Supervisor Kevin Mayer said the construction was finished toward the end of May, and the time since then has been used to inspect everything and get it all approved and finalized.

“You can actually talk uptown now and you don’t have to wait until the train is gone,” Mayer said.

Klevgard said this new policy will be especially nice for Summerfest, the annual summer celebration that will be held from July 26-29 this year.

Under federal rules, quiet zones must have additional safety measures to allow trains to avoid their horns. One safety measure is the “pedestrian mazes,” which force bicyclists to dismount before crossing the tracks due to high traffic.

Klevgard said the project is estimated to be paid off in less than 10 years, but that’s subject to change.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jessica Ballou at (701) 241-5509