The sound of the train whistle will still be a fixture within the City of Lacombe.
Lacombe City councillors declined to proceed towards achieving whistle cessation in the City limits. All councillors present were opposed to the potential process and voted against the proposition during their regular council meeting on July 13th.
Engineering Services Manager Jordan Thompson presented council with, under the new Transport Canada regulation and standards, steps for whistle cessation.
He detailed that the eight legal steps — from railway company consultations to upgrading the railway crossings — would be costly and would first require the completion of a safety assessment at the estimated cost of $19,145.
“Whistle cessation is a lengthy process requiring notifications to specific stakeholders, a crossing safety assessment, consultations with the railway company Canadian Pacific (CP), as well as specific resolutions of council,” said Thompson. “Transport Canada estimates the whole process could take about two to three years.”
Through the process, an agreement would be created between the City and CP, noting which crossings meet the current standards and which crossings would require upgrades. Additional insurance would be required and the City would be responsible for ongoing maintenance costs of the upgraded crossings.
Thompson also noted it was likely new fencing would be required to be installed along the east side of the tracks along Hwy. 2A, which would cost between $80,000 to $200,000. He indicated most of the costs in relation to the entire whistle cessation process remain unknown at this time.
Councillor Wayne Rempel said he was not in favour of whistle cessation like he was before, due to the amount of feedback he’s received from residents.
“I don’t want to spend any money on something that I think that, once we get the public involved in this discussion, as we have already started to, people are going to say you can spend our money on a lot better things than stopping the whistle,” he said. “I’m not going to say it doesn’t affect people. It does, especially people living near the tracks.
“At the same time, you have to think about the money we are spending here. So this is something that I am not in favour of because of the feedback I’ve received from the community.”
Councillor Grant Harder agreed with Rempel regarding the substantial costs of the process. “This is a divisive issue,” he said. “There are some people who are really in favour of getting rid of the darn whistles. There really is a divided opinion within the community. I think we can maybe look at it in a couple more years.”
Councillor Wayne Armishaw said whistle cessation is not a matter of reducing safety. “It’s a matter of recognizing that this entity is the only entity that is permitted to make such a noise to warn people in the immediate vicinity that are at risk, but people a kilometre away can hear it,” he said. “I understand the costs involved and the obstacles put forward by the railway companies for this. I think whistle cessation is a nationwide conversation.”
Armishaw suggested for council to put the issue forward to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM).
As Mayor Steve Christie is a member of the FCM Rail Safety Committee, he agreed to alert the organization about the discussions regarding whistle cessation.
While council declined to proceed ahead with whistle cessation at this time, it does not completely close off the issue from future consideration. Residents with a valid petition (with signatures from over 10% of the population of the City) can still present their issue to council, which would spur council to take another look at the issue.