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Rider's Almanac Blog

METRO Blue Line

Detection system keeps trains moving safely through airport tunnel

| Thursday, May 19, 2022 4:38:00 PM

A few people a year, deer and the occasional raccoon try to walk, run or scamper through the light rail tunnel under the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. But they don't often get very far without being detected. 

Sensors in the tunnel alert staff in the Rail Control Center that something, or someone, has entered the prohibited area. For safety reasons, trains are stopped while the tunnel is cleared by transit police. 

After 20 years of service, the tunnel's alarm system was replaced this week with new equipment. The new system works much like the one it replaced, but with two new features -- sensors that pick up movements near the underground Lindbergh Station and red flashing signals that alert operators at the tunnel entrances. 

Crews expected to finish the upgrade in January until they discovered extensive rewiring was needed. While that work stretched on, crews continued maintaining communications equipment along the Blue and Green line. 

"These guys were rock stars. I can’t begin to tell you how I appreciate their dedication,’’ SCADA communications supervisor Jereld Hanson said. 

Employees who worked on the upgrade include: forepersons Mike Maghrak and Vladimir Banchik and SCADA communications technicians Darin Rorman, Steve Eastlund, Jim Lensch, Dave Peterson, Mika Raveala and John Vooge. Signal foreperson Ryan Yenish and signal maintainers Scott Clarke and Isaac Inwards assisted. 

The crews should catch a break now because the new system will require less maintenance and its sensors are easier to maintain.

"We periodically had to align the photocells to make sure they were providing the infrared beam for the security system," Hanson said. "That’s all automated now. It frees up a lot of time."

We're hiring

Want to help maintain the equipment that keeps our light rail trains moving safely and on schedule? Applications for light rail signals technicians, track maintainers and traction power maintainers are being accepted on an ongoing basis. Learn more and apply at metrocouncil.org.