Train whistles in Lacombe may fall silent

Proposed safety upgrades at rail crossings would allow trains to drop whistles

A move to make Lacombe-area rail crossings safer comes with a fringe benefit — more peace and quiet.

Upgrades to a number of rail crossings in Lacombe and just outside the city mean trains will no longer be required to blow their whistles as a warning.

The frequent whistle blasts have been an annoyance for years. Several delegations have raised the issue before council, and in 2015, a 20-name petition was submitted calling on the city to lobby Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. to stop blowing its whistles.

According to the railway’s 2015 statistics, an average of a dozen trains pass through the town on the north-south Leduc line, tooting their whistles through five crossings inside the city and another three just east of town.

That looks like it is about to change. City council has approved putting aside money in its next budget to upgrade the crossings for safety, with whistle cessation an added benefit.

Up to 85 per cent of whistles will be eliminated by upgrading the Leduc line.

Upgrades will cost $72,500 on the improvements, $60,000 of which will be spent at the 50th Avenue crossing.

The 50th Avenue crossing is awkwardly designed, and unwary motorists can find themselves stuck on the tracks behind other vehicles when the nearby traffic lights turn red.

Fixing crossings on a less-well-used east-west line, known as the Bretcher line, is pricier due to the estimated $503,500 cost of improving a crossing at Highway 12 and Wolf Creek Drive with lights, bells and crossing arms.

Council plans to include that work in the budget as well, but the work will not go ahead unless grant funding is lined up.

A federal government program provides grants of up to 80 per cent of the cost of crossing work required for safety. CP would also kick in some money.

Mayor Grant Creasey said he would only consider the expensive upgrades for safety reasons, not just to reduce whistle din.

“On the surface, to spend half a million dollars to get rid of 15 per cent of the whistles in the community, is a bit ridiculous in my opinion,” he said during council debate.

“But if it’s safety related, it’s more palatable.”

Coun. Cora Hoekstra agreed safety should be the driver of the crossing upgrades.

“Our motivation should be the safety of the city.”

Coun. Don Gullekson said given how close the Wolf Creek Drive crossing is to a future growth area for the city, a safety upgrade to crossing arms, lights and bells, rather than installing stop signs — which was an available option — makes sense.

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