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Canadian Pacific trains in La Crescent

Canadian Pacific cars marked with graffiti sit stalled on the railway in La Crescent on Tuesday afternoon.

The La Crescent Police Department has written numerous citations against Canadian Pacific Railway for blocking public crossings for longer than 10 minutes, according to the city’s Police Chief Doug Stavenau, but he doesn’t think the fines have an impact on the huge railroad company.

Minnesota statute limits the amount of time a train can block a public crossing to 10 minutes, Stavenau said, but Canadian Pacific trains regularly stop at crossings in La Crescent for longer than that, causing problems for businesses and residents.

The railway in La Crescent is owned by Canadian Pacific and is part of the heavily traveled route that runs through St. Paul and Winona, before it separates from that route just north of town, and heads south towards Dubuque, Davenport and Kansas City. La Crescent has both public and private crossings along the tracks.

One of the public intersections is located by Truss Specialists and Classic Rock Products, and the other connects to the bike path behind the former Commodore Club and current Flea Market. Delays are frequent at both public crossings, the police chief said. Canadian Pacific has never contested any of the citations against it from the La Crescent police department, he added.

“If they were to stop south of town a mile or two farther, instead of right where the switch is, that would alleviate all the blocked crossings,” said Stavenau. “Even for the private ones.”

A dispatch center in Minneapolis is responsible for controlling the trains passing the rails in La Crescent, Stavenau said, rather than the engineer or conductor aboard the train.

It’s not just trains blocking crossings that bothers some residents of La Crescent. Loud train whistles that go off night and day as trains pass through the city also are an issue. Conductors are required to employ three whistles each time they pass a private intersection, said Stavenau.

“Our residents now have some viable complaints,” said Stavenau. “At two-three o’clock in the morning, they are getting disturbed.”

The city considered consolidating railroad crossings in La Crescent to create a whistle-free zone, but Stavenau said because of the private crossings to the south, it was determined that a whistle-free zone would not be enough to silence the area.

Stavenau said the city is now hoping the Federal Railroad Administration will work with them to format a consolidation plan for the crossings to create a quiet-zone that would actually work.

Frank Tetzlaff has resided in the Hills Mobile Park on Sycamore street for the last five years, which is less than 50 yards away from the railway. Tetzlaff said he thinks the train whistles have gotten more disturbing over the past two years, and that he’s been interrupted from his sleep numerous times from the whistles. But even Tetzlaff is skeptical much can be done.

“Fighting the railroad is like fighting the federal government,” said Tetzlaff. “Won’t get anywhere.”

Meanwhile, Stavenau said he’s working to establish better communications with Canadian Pacific to see if a resolution can be found to problems between the city and railroad company.

“That’s the frustrating part, because in my eyes, the solutions are easy,” said Stavenau. “It’s just figuring out how we get in real communication with each other.”

Canadian Pacific spokesman Andy Cummings said the company “has been in touch with the city of La Crescent.”

“We will engage directly with them and seek solutions to the issue,” Cummings added.

The problem of the trains blocking railroad crossings for lengthy periods of time and issues around the noise from train whistles are expected to be discussed at the next meeting of La Crescent Common Council, which is Oct. 23.

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Houston County News reporter

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