By Robert Willams
Frazee will soon become a railroad horn quiet zone, but the Highway 87 construction changes to the main intersection in town are becoming a safety issue with larger vehicles. The city council discussed both topics at Monday’s meeting.
“I’m pleased to announce that the Federal Railroad Administration took a look at all our documents and have agreed to our request to create a quiet zone in Frazee based on our risk assessment coming in under the horn assessment,” said councilman Mark Flemmer.
In a quiet zone, railroads have been directed to cease the routine sounding of their horns when approaching public highway-rail grade crossings. Train horns may still be used in emergency situations or to comply with other federal regulations or railroad operating rules. Localities desiring to establish a quiet zone are first required to mitigate the increased risk caused by the absence of a horn.
The council will meet with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to discuss the change and also continue discussions on the turning area at Highway 87 and County Road 10.
“The turning radius issue at 87 and County Road 10 will really dictate our ability to implement the quiet zone,” said vice mayor Mike Sharp. “We need to send them a message that something needs to be done there, whether it’s a truck route through town or whatever. We have to find a way to manage truck traffic there.”
Flemmer noted the city informed MnDOT that the truck turning radiuses were going to cause a hazard at the intersection.
The Highway 87 construction project has constricted the intersection of Juniper Avenue West (10) and Lake Street (87) to 28-feet from curb to curb.
“I think MnDOT owes us to create some other alternatives besides using the existing road they are now,” said Flemmer.
“To make that turn, trucks have to go into oncoming traffic every different way,” said Sharp. “That is not a safe situation. Regardless of the quiet zone, something needs to be done to correct that issue.”
Mayor Ken Miosek is the main contact with MnDOT on the project.
“Their main explanation is they want to keep trucks going straight; they don’t want them to turn,” he said. “They’re going to use all the signage they can to make them go that way.”
Miosek asked MnDOT to make it a drive-over curb, but was denied, and has talked to area truck and bus companies about the problem.
“Plus, what do you do with a camper in the summertime when a guy’s got a 35-foot fifth wheel and a boat behind that?” said Miosek. “He’s going to be caught on the tracks when he tries to turn or he has to wait for five cars in front of the bus garage. It’s a hazard for the railroad too. I’ve gone back-and-forth with them half a dozen times.”
Local trucking companies have also expressed a desire for a drive-over curb.
“The trucking companies are trying to help you out by saying let’s change it now, before you have to put it in and rip it up after you realize a year from now that it isn’t going to work,” said Miosek. “They say, well, we’ll take our chances.”
Councilman Mark Kemper noted that local truck traffic, especially Daggett trucks, are likely going to have to travel up to the school rather than turn at the railroad intersection. The only other option would be to travel out to Highway 10 and around and back through town.
Sharp reported that representatives of Daggett Truck Lines and Anderson Bus are both proponents of the quiet zone.