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Canadian Pacific Railway changing its operations at Cardigan Junction
Residents living near Cardigan Junction in southeast Shoreview may get some relief from the around-the-clock train noise they have been enduring since this spring as a result of increased railroad activity.
Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) announced last week that they would be implementing a new operation plan through the junction.
CPR, which owns the railway intersection just north of I-694 and west of Rice Street, has seen an uptick in business lately as a result of an improved economy, according to Ed Greenberg, a spokesman for the company.
Although Greenberg did not elaborate, Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman said an improving economy; a busy harvest season and an increase in silica sand mining used for oil extraction have all contributed to a boom in nearby railroad activity recently.
As a part of the company’s new operations plan, Greenberg said CPR would be conducting its daily switching operations in another area.
“By no longer switching any of these rail cars, we believe this will reduce the amount of night operations, train noise, potential for blocked crossings and train idling.”
According to Greenberg, CPR is also taking measures to ensure rail crews apply train whistles appropriately, reducing the amount of time trains block railroad crossings in Shoreview. A closed-circuit camera will also be installed so CPR can check on operations at the junction when residents raise concerns, he said.
CPR has notified Shoreview Mayor Sandy Martin and city officials from neighboring communities of the company’s proposal to change its operations in the Cardigan Junction area.
“I am encouraged and hopeful about the proposal that they promised would greatly alleviate some of the problems that have occurred because of the use of this area as a switching yard,” Martin said.
Shoreview resident Marcia Figus said she is skeptical CPR officials will stick to their word; her home is just a few hundred feet from the tracks near the junction. She said the neighborhood would like to see an agreement that is “legally binding and something that says what changes they are making,” she said.
Things have quieted some in recent days, she contends, adding she believes it’s mostly due to the work being done on the rails nearby. She said residents are “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
Figus added that the community is displeased that the railroad is not addressing environmental impacts the expanded operations are having in the area, which is flanked by Grass Lake and Lake Vadnais, from the latter of which the city of St. Paul gets much of its drinking water.
Quiet zone studies
Both Shoreview and Little Canada have hired the professional services firm SEH Inc. to conduct Rail Quiet Zone and Operation studies following hundreds of complaints from residents in the two cities. The studies will be completed within 90 days, and will pinpoint what improvements would need to be made to implement quiet zones in each city.
The Federal Railroad Administration mandates that train operators sound train horns through intersections, but if certain railroad crossing protection devices are used to keep vehicles from crossing (along with other improvements), a quiet zone can be established.
Quiet zones are typically one-half mile long sections of track where train crews do not sound their horns, unless there is an emergency.
Improvements to rail crossings needed to establish quiet zones are expensive, up to $250,000 per crossing, depending on the features at a particular crossing, Ramsey County Commissioner Blake Huffman said. The city of Shoreview has four at-grade crossings and Little Canada has five. Schwerm said he did not expect that the county would help pay for the cost of creating quiet zones if the city decided to implement them -- many of the rail crossings in the area are at county roads.
“It’s not typical for counties to do that,” he said.
Huffman confirmed that the county had not yet offered any finances to upgrade rail crossings to either city.
“There are programs through the state that can sometimes help fund [quiet zones],” Schwerm said. “We will better understand that process, along with costs, when the study is completed.”
Joshua Nielsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-748-7824.