Lacombe city council to consider silencing train whistles

Lacombe administration recommends pursuing whistle cessation at six crossings

Lacombe’s administration is recommending city council pursue whistle cessation at four railway crossings in town and two in the surrounding county.

Residents have complained for many years about the din from shrieking train whistles blasted at five crossings in the city and another three in the county just north and south of Lacombe.

In 2018, city council directed administration to look into the problem and determine what would have to be done to successfully silence the whistles.

Last month, CP Rail completed an inspection of the city’s rail crossings and gave the green light to the city to apply for whistle cessation at three crossings, at 46th Avenue, 34th Street and Highway 12, and Wolf Creek Drive and Highway 12. The rail company said the city could also apply for cessation at Wolf Creek Drive and Highway 2A, but only after a pedestrian crossing is completed.

CP Rail was not in favour of whistle cessation at the most high-profile crossing at 50th Avenue (Highway 12) and Highway 2A at the edge of the historic downtown.

Despite upgrades including line painting and sign improvements, CP Rail remains concerned about vehicles queuing on the tracks. In recent years, at least two vehicles lined up at the tracks have been hit by passing trains.

“During their August site review, CP Rail confirmed they would require a significant intersection re-design before issuing whistle cessation since the signs and line paint have not altered driver behaviour,” says a report going to council at its Monday meeting from city engineering services manager Amber Mitchell.

Among the required changes would be a redesign of westbound lanes to prevent queuing and changing traffic light timing so westbound vehicles turning left could clear the area well ahead of trains. The pedestrian crossing on the south side of the crossing would also have to be redesigned and the fencing extended near the Tim Hortons on the east side of the tracks.

The improvements have not been costed out but could range from $400,000 to $800,000, says CP Rail.

However, city staff are concerned that the changes aimed at whistle cessation would only make congestion problems worse at the intersection, which already has one of the highest collision rates in the city.

It is recommended the city take the long view and look at changes that will keep traffic moving efficiently 20 to 40 years down the road. Those would include an overall look at access on Highway 12 and address safety concerns at Highway 12 and 46th Street, another high-collision intersection.

Staff recommend council pursue whistle cessation at the four approved intersections and develop long-term options for improving the 50th Avenue and Highway 2A intersections. It is recommended Lacombe County be approached to apply for whistle cessation at 34th Street, north of the city, and at Range Road 270 to the south.

A third county crossing is nearby at Range Road 270A, but it would require extensive modifications costing in the range of $500,000 and is not recommended for change.

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