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Trains silence horns as quiet rail zone goes back into effect in downtown Bismarck

Trains silence horns as quiet rail zone goes back into effect in downtown Bismarck

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Downtown Bismarck's "quiet rail zone" is back in place, with trains silencing their horns at crossings, following traffic signal equipment repairs last week.

BNSF Railway freight trains are once again rumbling through downtown Bismarck without blaring their horns, after repairs were made to traffic signal equipment that's a key part of the city's "quiet rail zone."

Train engineers had been sounding horns earlier this month due to issues with traffic signal equipment related to the city's project converting Main Avenue to three lanes. The signal controllers weren't syncing up with BNSF equipment that helps clear traffic away from a crossing by controlling nearby stoplights. It wasn't a safety concern, as crossing arms continued to lower.

The contractor for the street project was responsible for fixing the problem, so it did not cost the city any additional money, according to spokeswoman Gloria David.

The quiet rail zone was put back in effect the middle of last week, according to railroad spokeswoman Courtney Wallace.

The federal government requires trains to sound their horns at crossings that do not meet quiet rail standards. A quiet rail zone allows train horns to cease if infrastructure such as gates and flashing lights is installed to protect vehicles and pedestrians. Train horns can reach 115 decibels, according to the Federal Railroad Administration. That's about the same as a rock concert, according to the Hearing Health Foundation.

Bismarck's $2.8 million project at Third, Fifth and 12th streets went into operation in January 2017. Train engineers still reserve the right to sound their horns if they deem it necessary for safety, such as to alert someone who is on the tracks.

Reach Blake Nicholson at 701-250-8266 or


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