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Central Alberta communities trying to silence train whistles

Whistles to be silenced at three rail crossings in Lacombe

The shrill blast of train whistles will less frequently break the peace at central Alberta railway crossings.

On Tuesday, Lacombe city council declared train whistles will be silenced at three of five crossings.

The same evening, Blackfalds town council voted to put $30,000 aside to see if whistles could be silenced at three crossings in town and one in Lacombe County.

In Lacombe, train whistles will be discontinued at Wolf Creek Drive (near Bretcher subdivision), 34th Street and 46th Avenue.

Canadian Pacific Kansas City (formerly CP Rail) will tell its engineers to lay off the whistles at those three crossings within 30 days of receiving notice of council’s decision, said planning and operations director Jordan Thompson.

A fourth crossing could also see the whistles stopped after construction of a pedestrian crossing next year.

The most prominent crossing at Highways 12 and 2A just east of the historic downtown will require significant upgrades to make it safe enough to silence the whistles.

“I am pleased to announce that council has taken significant steps to reduce noise pollution within the community at these intersections,” Mayor Grant Creasey said in a statement.

“Unfortunately, the crossing on 50th Avenue did not receive approval for whistle cessation due to the rail company’s requirements. Council hopes to mitigate traffic and safety issues at this intersection and is investigating long-term solutions.”

Driven by complaints from local residents, City of Lacombe has been looking into whistle cessation at local crossings for a decade.

“I’m very pleased we finally got to this point,” said Coun. Reuben Konnik.

CPKC reviewed five crossings within town boundaries and three just outside the city in Lacombe County. Lacombe has asked the county to consider pursuing whistle cessation at two of those crossings.

In Blackfalds, where there are three railroad crossings, council approved $30,000 to go towards a whistle cessation initiative.

It will cover the $23,724 tender awarded to Calgary-based Watt Consulting Group to determine the scope of improvements necessary to allow for whistle cessation along with additional funding to cover the Lakeside Sargent Road work. The work is expected to start in January and finish in March.

Consultants will inspect the rail crossings for deficiencies, whether they see a lot of trespassing and generally make sure all of the arms and signals are working properly, said Preston Weran, director of infrastructure and property services.

“After that study would be completed we’d be looking at working with Transport Canada and CPKC to enter into a whistle cessation agreement after a public hearing was done.”

Weran said the process has been the “norm” in central Alberta, noting Innisfail successfully pursued whistle cessation and City of Lacombe and Lacombe County are working on it.

Three in-town crossings will be reviewed, as well as a Lacombe County crossing at Lakeside Sargent Road, just north of Blackfalds.

“We realized shortly after putting out this proposal the whistle blowing at this intersection would be heard within the town limits,” Weran said.

Blackfalds staff reached out to their county counterparts to look at including Lakeside Sargent Road in the review. It is proposed the $4,000 cost be split 50/50.

Weran anticipates approvals will be needed to make it safer for pedestrians at the South Street crossing, which could include fencing along the railway right of way.

Coun. Rebecca Stendie suggested that Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools and Wolf Creek School Division be approached to get their input.

It was also suggested Blackfalds work with Red Deer County, which has been asked by residents to pursue whistle cessation at a crossing at the northern edge of the county.

Mayor Jamie Hoover said much has been done to make the community’s crossings safer.

“I know in the Town of Blackfalds we have done a lot of work on our crossings and on a lot of the fences we’ve put along the rail line. Regardless of whether we move in the direction of whistle cessation, we’ve already made significant safety improvements along the rails in town.

“A study like this, no matter what we decide afterwards, I think is of significant value for us. Our community is impacted by the train tracks that go through town.”

“I’m definitely in support of having more data to tell us what we’ve done right and what we could do in the future.”

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Paul Cowley

About the Author: Paul Cowley

Paul grew up in Brampton, Ont. and began his journalism career in 1990 at the Alaska Highway News in Fort. St. John, B.C.
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