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Red Deer County residents seek train whistle relief

Two dozen trains a day blast whistles as they pass near four county subdivions north of Red Deer
Red Deer County residents are asking for municipal support to see if train whistles can be stopped at a crossing near four subdivisions. (Black Press Media file photo)

When Elvine Skoretz first moved to her Red Deer County home in 1989 only three or four passing trains a day pierced the calm with their warning whistles.

Now two dozen trains a day sound their horns — one long blast, two short and another long — as they pass through a crossing at all hours of the day and night about half a kilometre from her Spruce Lane Acres home just north of Red Deer.

The “very intrusive” racket is so loud it frequently jolts her out of her sleep.

So loud are the whistles, she knows of one family who moved into the area only to have to leave again because one of the couple’s parents could not get enough sleep due to the whistles from passing trains on the CP Rail line that runs from Edmonton through central Alberta to Calgary and beyond.

How annoying the noise is on any given occasion varies. Some train engineers seem a little more enthusiastic in their whistle blowing. The weather also has a bearing. Some days the conditions amplify the noise.

And, of course, in the summer when many keep their windows open train whistles intrude even more into people’s home lives.

The noise has been an issue for years but residents have had enough and hope Red Deer County will support efforts to get relief.

“We’ve just got the ball rolling,” she said.

County Coun. Christine Moore, whose division includes Spruce Lane Acres and three other nearby subdivisions within hearing distance of the whistles, Louis Victor, Wolf River Estates and Valley Ridge, has heard the complaints and wants to see what can be done.

At Tuesday’s county council meeting, she proposed a notice of motion asking that administration look into the whistle issue and prepare a report and possible direction the county can take. Council will vote on the notice of motion at its next meeting in two weeks.

Moore said she first raised the issue a couple of years ago but it did not go anywhere at that time. About a month ago, she saw the issue was getting traction on a Facebook page for the community and she told them she would bring it up at council.

While the county has no jurisdiction over rail crossings, it can prepare a report in support of cessation, she said. A number of communities, including Innisfail, have successfully silenced the whistles after crossings were upgraded to ensure there are no safety issues.

Moore said she too has heard of people who have bought property in the area only to sell up and leave, exasperated by the frequent din.

“It really does impact the quality of life.”

Flashing lights to warn of approaching trains were put in a number of years ago at the crossing and about a year ago arms were installed to prevent vehicles crossing unsafely.

“The theory from the residents is they don’t need the whistle,” she said.

Moore said safety is most important, but if there is a way to improve the situation without putting drivers at risk it is worth pursuing.

The City of Lacombe is also seeking whistle cessation in response to persistent complaints from residents.

Last month, council put a plan in motion to work with CP Rail to silence the whistles at four of five crossings within the city and request Lacombe County pursue whistle cessation at two crossings just outside the city.

Council also passed a motion to develop long-term options at the busy Highway 12 and 2A intersection at the edge of the historic downtown to improve safety and eventually silence the whistles there as well.

In May, Blackfalds town council directed staff to prepare a request for proposal for a rail safety assessment to determine what changes, if any, would need to be made at three rail crossings in town before an agreement to silence train whistles would be considered by CP Rail and Transport Canada.

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