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Blackfalds looking at silencing train whistles

Residents have complained train whistles ruining sleep and driving away newcomers
Trains no longer blow leading up to the controlled crossing at 49th Avenue in Innisfail. Blackfalds council also wants to see if whistles can be stopped. (Photo contributed by the Town of Innisfail)

Blackfalds residents who attended an open house or commented online were narrowly in favour of the town seeking to silence train whistles.

After a town resident came to council in February to complain about the whistle din that robs residents of sleep an open house was organized on April 14 to get local feedback.

Of the 48 responses the town got at the open house or who submitted comments online, 26 were in favour of the town pursuing an agreement with railway and Transport Canada officials to have the whistles stopped. Twenty-one were not in favour and one respondent said they needed more information before taking a position.

According to a 2019 count, 18 to 19 Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. trains pass through Blackfalds three rail crossings daily, blowing their warning whistles at each. All three crossings have flashing lights, bells and gates.

Local resident Jeff Morrison told council the whistles often wake him up at night and are such a nuisance that it is driving people away who would otherwise consider buying a home in the community.

Innisfail residents also complained about train whistles for years. The town worked with CP Rail to have whistles silenced, beginning with four crossings in town where the whistle fell silent in June 2021. Lacombe has also looked into whether train whistles can be silenced and whether trains can be slowed down.

Transportation and railway officials are reluctant to silence train whistles, which are seen as an important safety feature. About 100 people a year die in collisions at railway crossings country-wide each year.

To have whistles silenced, a formal process must be followed and a whistle cessation safety assessment must be done at railway crossing to see what upgrades may be required to maintain safety if whistles are silenced.

Blackfalds administration has spoken to CP Rail about what upgrades would likely be required. The list includes 650 metres of fencing along the South street rail crossing in town along with a formal pedestrian crossing or at least a widening of the asphalt shoulder to keep vehicles and pedestrians apart.

The fencing would cost about $42,000, the pedestrian crossing $25,000 and an engineering assessment study $25,000 to $50,000. The town would try to get funding help through CP Rail or a Transport Canada rail safety program. The total cost of pursuing whistle cessation would be in the range of $92,000 to $117,000.

Council was expected to discuss whether to pursue whistle cessation on Tuesday evening.

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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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