Bruno and Karen DiNella moved to Rosemount from Eagan to escape roaring jets taking off from a new runway at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
They figured Rosemount had to be quieter, even though their new home was about a block from a railroad crossing.
But some days train whistles sounded dozens of times. Sleeping was tough with windows open on summer nights when "those flyers came through here with horns blaring," Bruno DiNella said.
His townhouse association neighbors also complained about the blasted noise. Then DiNella read that some Anoka County suburbs had installed crossing quiet zones where horns are not automatically sounded.
"I thought, 'If Anoka can do it, why can't we?'"
He went to a City Council meeting about five years ago and asked the city to look into installing quiet zones, including one at the crossing near him on County Road 46 near Chippendale Avenue. Being on the city Port Authority board, he regularly saw Mayor Bill Droste at board meetings and always asked about quiet zone progress.
"We had a lot of complaints from neighbors," especially DiNella, Droste said. More than 60 percent of Rosemount's 7,300 homes sit within a mile of the five railroad crossings, noted city spokesman Alan Cox.
The years of lobbying paid off. This year the city finished upgrading its five Union Pacific railroad crossings and the horns went quiet in January.
After seven noisy years followed by 10 months of quiet trains, "I am very pleased," said DiNella, 77. "We have a very progressive mayor and council."
Rosemount's 3 1/2-mile quiet zone "is the most beneficial thing we've done for residents in the past year," Droste said. "I can't tell you the number of comments I've heard: how wonderful it is not to have the horns blasting away in the middle of the night. Everyone is in a better mood in Rosemount."
Minnesota has 53 quiet zone crossings, most in the metro area, including those in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Minnetonka, Coon Rapids, Cottage Grove and Hastings, says the Federal Railway Administration, which regulates crossings.
It took about $1.75 million and four years for the railroad to install medians, more gates and other safety measures required before its engineers could stop routinely sounding their horns at the city's five crossings. The five, from east to west, are at Akron Avenue, Biscayne Avenue, City Hall (145th Street), County Road 42 and County Road 46.
The latter four crossings cost nearly $1.2 million, all paid from Municipal State Aid funds allocated to the city, said City Engineer Andrew Brotzler. The city paid nearly $200,000 of the $597,000 upgrade at Akron, done in 2009, he said. The rest of the Akron money came from Dakota County and federal dollars.
Federal regulations say quiet zones will not be approved if the risk to the public increases when horns are not automatically blown. Cities also must pay for concrete medians and/or more crossing gates to prevent vehicles from illegally driving around gates when they are lowered.
Brotzler noted that engineers still must sound train horns if they see pedestrians near the tracks or in emergencies, such as an animal on the tracks. He said residents have quickly become used to the luxury of quiet crossings. His City Hall office is next to a crossing, and if a horn sounds, "I get calls from people asking why."
Police Chief Eric Werner said the upgraded quiet zone has improved driver safety as well as resident quality of life. As a resident, he said he is doubly blessed because he and his wife, Salina, live about halfway between the City Hall and Biscayne Avenue crossings. They moved to town a dozen years ago from an even noisier train setting in the Chicago area.
"I am happy to have a quieter neighborhood," Werner said. "But I am also pleased it is a safer neighborhood."
Jim Adams • 952-746-3283