After two circulating petitions, multiple presentations to City council and much debate, the issue of train whistle cessation in Lacombe has been silenced, at least for now.
On Monday night, councillors declined to proceed towards achieving whistle cessation, the legal process that prevents CP Rail trains from sounding their horns at rail crossings.
While this decision may not sit well with some, especially to those who have signed the petition to remove the train whistle or to those who have presented to council in favour to remove the whistle, it’s a decision they will now have to temporarily accept.
Like most things, it came down to money. This appeared to be the main factor behind council’s decision. It wasn’t that the presentations in favour of whistle cessation fell on deaf ears. All opinions were taken into consideration, but as Councillor Grant Harder stated, it’s a very divisive issue.
Rarely does anyone sit in the middle of the tracks, so to speak. Either you are in favour or in opposition. You either live by the train tracks and have to endure the resounding toot of the CP train horn, or you live further away and it is something that doesn’t bother you much at all.
With an issue such as this, there would be no possible way council could please both sides of the debate. They had to, much like most of their decisions, consider the cost to taxpayers and the effects on all residents.
The decision was not easy to make, especially when some residents have stated the train whistle keeps them awake at night and affects their health negatively.
However, the unpredictability of the costs to proceed with whistle cessation made a clear mark in the sand — why move ahead with something that would cost an estimated $500,000-plus that affects one in two Lacombe residents?
This was not the first time whistle cessation has been brought forward to Lacombe City council. As recently as 2013, council received a report about whistle cessation and past efforts undertaken over the years.
The 2015 whistle cessation effort was one that lived on social media sites and on the street.
This is not the last time the issue of ceasing the whistle will emerge. It is likely to resurface in Lacombe once again, perhaps as early as next year. It’s also likely for the topic of whistle cessation to be discussed in neighbouring communities along the tracks like Ponoka and Blackfalds.
It may also become a national issue, earning notice from MPs and Transport Canada officials on the federal level.
Until then, the train whistles on.