The Bismarck City Commission chose the SRF Consulting Group of Minneapolis as design engineer for quiet rail infrastructure at Third, Fifth and 12th streets.
If the city installs safer railway crossings at the intersections, the BNSF Railway can dial back the volume on train whistles — known to blare from 80 to 110 decibels. Railroads blow the whistles loudly at less protected crossings because Federal Railroad Administration regulations require it.
City Commissioner Parrell Grossman said SRF will design the project concepts, last estimated to cost about $1.5 million. He said the scope of the work and contract costs will be presented before the city commission on Feb. 26.
“They should come back with a final report in August,” he said. “Then we would submit the Federal Railroad Administration application. They could be reviewing it until May of 2014.”
He said the report will study what is needed and will best fit with the crossings.
About the same time, SRF will be working on crossing designs with the railroad and the project must meet BNSF’s approval. BNSF would award the project contract, but the city would pay for it from tax increment finance district funds.
“For now, we’re looking at a four-quadrant gate system with a vehicle detector at Third and Fifth streets and 12th Street would have a three-quadrant gate system with a 75-foot medium.”
He said plans would limit pedestrian crossing somehow.
“It will have to provide a high level of protection,” Grossman said.
He said the design could be ready by June of 2014.
Timeline for finishing the project would be based on BNSF’s schedule, Grossman said. “Construction could be done as early as August of 2014 or as late as February of 2015. It depends on BNSF,” he explained.
“The whistles are very disruptive to the downtown. They are allowed by the FRA to go 110 decibels. Hearing damage starts at 80 decibels,” said downtown businessman Jim Christianson. “It’s only going to get worse with more coal and oil trains coming through. We will be the last city in the state to get quiet rail.”
“There are housing projects that are waiting for the trains to be silenced (before they start),” Christianson said.