There’s been quite the stir about railroad horns and a quiet zone in Little Falls this past year. Historically, the railroad has been allowed to do pretty much whatever it wants, and it continues with this attitude because it’s easier than working with individual communities on specific problems. The railroad wants trains to blow their horns long and loud at every street crossing so that people have fair warning. Good enough. But there are residents who live near the tracks who are tired of hearing these blasts in the middle of the night. Little Falls managed to get a quiet zone through the city, much to the chagrin of the railroad, which has been attempting to do away with the quiet zone since. Residents are split about whether to keep the horns or not.

This week in the Morrison County Record, Sharon M. Ruhland let her opinion on the issue be known. She feels that getting an automated horn that blows just at the crossing (rather than having conductors blast train horns all the way through) is not a good idea because of the cost and because only one company offers the horns. I can live with these objections. However, she then goes on to say, “I suggest the council diligently and swiftly begin legalities to allow razing the mural building which dangerously blocks the view of trains and tracks.” Now there’s a solution. Start knocking down buildings whenever they are no longer convenient for certain parties in a debate.

Let’s digress for a moment and talk about roads. If you have a small, bumpy, skinny road that has a tree in the middle of it, how do you drive on that road? How do you drive on a wide, smooth road with generous shoulders? Apply these rhetorical questions to the train tracks with a building blocking the view. Whenever I cross the tracks from west-to-east, alongside that mural building, I automatically slow down because of the poor visibility. I check the tracks more carefully because of the building. (If you are a driver who prefers to drive full-throttle no matter what the visibility, please shift your car permanently into Park and quit putting the rest of us in danger.)

While I realize that the City has the right of eminent domain – and so, too, probably the railroad – we still have to consider that the building is owned by someone and it’s still a useful building in some ways, regardless of the mural. Before we go taking drastic measures, we need to take a little drive on that small, bumpy road and think about the ramifications of our potential actions.

Phineas F. A. Pickerel

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