Petition In Golden Valley
By Andrew Richter
Well I’m happy to report that petitions are in the news! This is something that WE as citizens need to take advantage of if we want government to listen. But this is Golden Valley we’re talking about and their city council could screw up a one car parade. Also this is quite a difficult issue;
Golden Valley is looking into creating a railroad quiet zone after a group of residents living at Laurel Hills East Condos petitioned the city council. The Council met with public works April 8 to discuss the concerns and options.
Perhaps they will be smart enough not to build condos right next to a railroad track…..
Laurel Hills East Condos, 5901 Laurel Ave., are located in very close proximity to several railroad crossings. According to the residents’ petition, in previous years the rails were only utilized during the day and caused no disturbance in the evenings.
“Several years ago, train traffic did not occur at night,” Robert and Carolyn Papke wrote in the petition. “A few years ago, (train traffic) seemed occasional and erratic. For the last year or so, trains come past (and also pause next to our building) many nights a week between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. They are extremely loud as they roll over each rail and, of course, create noxious fumes, sediment and vibrations.”
The duo goes on to say that the conductors blow the horns loud and often while passing by. To the railway it is a safety precaution, but to residents it is a nuisance. According to the Papkes, the corner of their building sits roughly 80 feet from the tracks. Public Works Engineer, Eric Seaburg, said after speaking with professionals in the railroad industry, it was verified that business and traffic has recently increased along the railway.
The close proximity of housing is nothing new to the Canadian Pacific Railway, the railway in question. “As population has grown, issues ranging from noise and vibrations of train operations and idling locomotives, to blocked highway and railway crossings, are common concerns in many municipalities,” it states on the railway’s website.
According to the website, two Canadian entities have joined to create a program, “Proximity,” to establish common approaches to preventing and resolving such issues. “When proximity issues arising from the growth and expansion of rail facilities or municipalities are not understood and addressed, problems can often be intractable and long lasting,” according to the company.
The website outlines guidelines for new development within proximity to railways but does not make mention of noise complaints to existing residences in close proximity – “Noise and vibration from rail operations are two of the primary sources of complaints from residents living near railway corridors.” The guidelines emphasize the importance of allowing enough buffer space between railway and new development so as to not disturb residents.
Wait a minute….how does that mesh with transit oriented development?
“Generally, during the day, noise should be contained to a level of conducive and comfortable speech communication or listening to soft music, and at night it should not interfere with normal sleeping patterns,” the guidelines state. The guidelines recommend first designing a facility in such a way that avoids disturbingly loud noise from passing trains or to build noise barriers to reduce the noise level.
Noise barriers are not on the minds of city staff. Instead, they are looking into establishing quiet zones in the proximity of Laurel Hills East Condos.
About the quiet zone
“In order to do (a quiet zone) under federal law, we’d have to establish a quiet zone at a minimum of a half-mile to maintain continuity,” Seaburg said.
Who cares what the Feds say? What do they know about Golden Valley? Do it yourself!
In the instance of the Laurel Hills East area, that would entail completing upgrades to four rail crossings: two on Laurel Avenue, one on Golden Hills Drive and one on the I-394 South Frontage Road. Each crossing would require different upgrades to make them safe, allowing conductors to pass through more quietly and without blowing the horn.
The most prominent issue is that the crossing on the frontage road is located in St. Louis Park. In order to create a legal quiet zone, Golden Valley would have to request that St. Louis Park fund and upgrade its own crossing or Golden Valley would have to pay the costs. In a very rough estimate, Public Works found that the cost to upgrade all four crossings would be approximately $600,000.
If the project were to move forward a study would have to be conducted.
“The study would benefit us to better define the scope of the project,” said Director of Public Works, Jeannine Clancy.
The study would better define the cost estimate, what would need to be done to each crossing and include feedback from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Canadian Pacific Railway. It could take several months to complete.
As always, government moves at a sloth’s pace.
The City Council empathized with the residents of Laurel Hills East and hoped there could be a way to solve the issue in a cost-effective manner. Councilmember Joanie Clausen believed the issue was one that should be addressed by the railway. She hoped the railway could either help fund the project or avoid using the rail in the evening.
“It doesn’t seem very fair to me that (the railway) can just do what they want, but residents are affected and they don’t count,” she said. “Can we work with the railroads and say, ‘we have a problem here?’”
What are they supposed to do….stop doing business?
Others in attendance instantly saw the difficulties with that concept.
“Can you get them to change the time of when they use the track?” asked City Manager Tom Burt. “That’s bigger than Golden Valley. We’re asking (the railway) to accommodate Golden Valley for the entire rail. We can ask, but I don’t know how far we’re going to get with that.”
Clancy chimed in pointing out that Golden Valley includes 31 railroad crossings within its city borders and that chances of additional resident complaints would not be surprising.
“Many of (the crossings) go through residential areas,” she said. “I say this because this is not the only area that you may be hearing about.” Councilmember Larry Fonnest asked if there were any history of the railway sharing the cost of such projects to which Seaburg replied saying he did not believe that to be very common.
“The railroad views it as the road is crossing their rail,” Burt said. “They were here before the city.”
The project is one that would be a major cost to the city. Council members were hesitant to approve any forward progress on the study or project at this point in time. Instead, they wish to reach out to the railway and the Minnesota Department of Transportation to discuss the issue, perhaps request financial assistance from the Metropolitan Council or at the least speak with St. Louis Park staff to get an idea as to where they stand on the issue.
Financial assistance from the Met Council? So you don’t want to spend, so you’ll get other taxpayers to spend instead!
The Public Works department plans to reconvene with City Council in the future to discuss any new information.
Well, I sympathize with the residents but I have to say I don’t want to see a ridiculous money spent on this either…..I’ll keep everyone posted on what happens here. Anyway, kudos for doing a petition!