Do not sound the horns

courtesy of the City of Inver Grove Heights • Three railroad crossings in the Concord neighborhood will become quiet zones, where conductors are no longer required to sound their horns, in order help improve quality of life in the area, following a June 11 Inver Grove Heights City Council vote. A crossing in the 105th Street neighborhood could become a quiet zone if the city can find help in funding the roughly $250,000 worth of work required for the designation.

Several Inver Grove Heights railroad crossing to become quiet zones


It’s a sound not many people welcome in the early morning hours: train horns. 

The Inver Grove Heights City Council is taking steps to silence some horns in the city and help improve the quality of life for residents who live near four railroad crossings.

Tom Link, community development director, said at the May 29 council meeting a proposal from SRF Consultants would make it possible to implement quiet zones at those crossings, putting in safety measures that would allow train conductors not to blow their horns, based on Federal Railroad Administration rules.

The council voted unanimously June 11 to to move ahead with SRF’s proposal and move towards putting in place quiet zones at the four crossings.


Initial steps

On April 2, Chris Ryan from SRF gave an update on the assessment study the council requested on various railroad crossings. 

SRF originally assessed all Union Pacific Railroad crossings on the east side of town, specifically at 65th, 66th, and Upper 71st streets and an adjacent private access near the Concord neighborhood. There was also an assessment done on the 105th Street crossing. 

Ryan said at the April meeting there are two key steps in implementing a quiet zone. The first is making sure every public crossing in the quiet zone has the minimum active warning devices, which include gates, flashing lights and constant warning time (CWT) detectors. 

Ryan said all of the crossings had gates and flashing lights, but CWT is not present at the 105th Street crossing.

Once the minimum requirements are met, Ryan said the next step is implementing safety improvements that bring down the risk of the corridor to an acceptable level. 

“The [Federal Railroad Administration] assumes if you take away the routine sounding of horns the risk will go up and then you need to add safety improvements to bring that risk back down to acceptable levels,” Ryan said.


Quiet zones

Link said May 29 there would be two separate railroad quiet zones in Inver Grove Heights. The first would be in the Concord neighborhood at 65th, 66th, and Upper 71st and another in the 105th Street neighborhood. 

“The Concord neighborhood is easier, more straight-forward,” Link said, adding it would take a few thousand dollars and a few months to get approval — no significant improvements are needed in the neighborhood.

The 105th Street neighborhood is more complicated, Link said. Work would take longer and be more expensive because of the need to have some railroad crossing improvements in the area.

Work would be done by Union Pacific Railroad, but the cost would be the city’s, he said. 

Link said the proposal is to break up the work in the two separate neighborhoods. The cost for work in the Concord neighborhood would be $1,500.

Construction costs for improvements at the 105th Street crossing would be approximately $250,000 and take roughly 16 months.

“Right now, we don’t have funds for the construction,” Link said, adding design work would cost an additional $10,000.

Link said staff recommended approval of the Concord neighborhood proposal and deferring SRF’s proposal for the 105tth Street neighborhood because they felt it didn’t make sense to spend money on design for a project when it was unknown if there would be money for construction. 

A third recommendation was to continue to search for funding for the 105th Street neighborhood project. 


First go-around

Mayor George Tourville said he usually follows staff suggestions, though railroad quiet zones are a quality of life issue and he said the city should move forward with both projects while searching for funding.

Council member Tom Bartholomew said that while he agrees it’s a quality of life issue, the trouble will be coming up with the $250,000.

“I know it’s the chicken and the egg,” Tourville said. “If we wait for funding, we may [wait] four, five, six years.” He added the project wouldn’t get cheaper in that time frame. 

The council decided May 29 to table the discussion until June 11 meeting so all five council members could be present. 

On June 11, the council decided to move forward with the Concord neighborhood work and the 105th Street planning, while seeking state or county help in funding construction.


– Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or

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