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City takes steps to get quiet zone

 

Posted 12/01/15 (Tue)

By Kevin Killough
Tioga may still get its railroad “quiet zone,” but it won’t be until next year at the earliest. These zones allow trains to pass through town without a screaming horn at intersections.
At the last commission meeting, the city voted to pay $23,000 to specialists out of Minot who will administer the permitting process.
“It’s what they do for a living . . . These guys are pros,” said Antonio Conti, engineer with Ackerman-Estvold.
After a long summer of blocked roads and other inconveniences to accommodate major upgrades to Main Street, the railroad “quiet zone” was not among the improvements many residents were hoping to see. 
Permit process
The problem is the permits never came through, and according to Conti, the city should never have been told the process would be complete in time to construct the zone this year. 
Before a zone can be implemented, the city must get approval from the Federal Railroad Administration, the North Dakota Department of Transportation, and BNSF. 
According to Conti, approval involves on-site visits by multiple parties and the city, mountains of documents and more than a few meetings.
“It’ll take time,” Conti said.  
Hiring the specialists ensures the process is done as correctly and efficiently as possible, Conti said.
The quiet zone was part of the entire downtown renovation project, which came in $1 million under budget. 
After Conti informed the city the project would not have the permits it needed to move forward, the zone was removed from the contract, which saved the city roughly $400,000.
Conti said definite costs will be known once the specialists do onsite visits.
He said the city may have to pay for further design work, but much of the old design will still be usable. 
Past performance
Conti moved into his position at Ackerman a couple months ago from AE2S, where he oversaw the new water tower project. Over the summer, an empty sliver of land by the high school was covered with a large concrete structure that will hold the water tank when it’s put in place next building season. 
The project also included a water main that ran up along Signal Road and an FAA permit to allow the city to paint the bulbous tank with its own logos and designs. 
Aside from a delay from the FAA, the project went up without any major hitches, unlike the downtown and North Main projects, which Ackerman was handling.
Cleaning house
Conti took over at the tail end of the Main Street construction and has been managing a pile of complaints.  
He said these projects this summer were originally designed by AmeriTech, which Ackerman bought out a few years ago. There’s also been a lot of turnover at Ackerman with those overseeing Tioga projects.
As a result, Conti said, not everything was done as well as it could have been. 
“What I’m doing is trying to clean up house,” Conti told the commission.
No more projects are in planning with AmeriTech designs, Conti said. 
In addition to hiring the specialist to do the quiet zone properly, Conti asked the commission to approve a $100,000 change order from the North Main street project. The city had actually approved the change order last summer, but Conti couldn’t find any paperwork on Ackerman’s end. 
The commission reapproved the change order, which didn’t cost the city anything more. 
Conti explained after the meeting, “I’m closing out old projects and doing paperwork that needs to be finished.”