Innisfail residents long to lose those train whistle blues

Two long blasts. One short. One more long. In Innisfail, it’s a sequence heard dozens of times a day as trains rumble through the town’s four crossings, belting out their warning calls to vehicles and pedestrians alike.

Daryl Hillman has asked Innisfail town council to investigate limiting CP Rail train whistles in town.

Daryl Hillman has asked Innisfail town council to investigate limiting CP Rail train whistles in town.

Two long blasts. One short. One more long.

In Innisfail, it’s a sequence heard dozens of times a day as trains rumble through the town’s four crossings, belting out their warning calls to vehicles and pedestrians alike.

For Daryl Hillman, the cacophony amounts to noise pollution and he wants it to stop.

Since Hillman went public with his concerns about train horn noise last month, it seems to have struck a chord with other townsfolk.

“I’ve had lots of response to that — tremendous,” said the 60-year-old broker at Sundance Realty and Management.

One person, who has a medical condition, said the racket got so bad he was forced to sell his home in Innisfail and move to Red Deer for peace and quiet, he said. Another man, who was a former mayor in Invermere, B.C., recounted that community’s successful efforts to get the train engineers to lay off the whistle.

Other communities have also been able to work out agreements with rail companies to reduce the noise, he said. That has left him optimistic that a similar deal can be reached in Innisfail.

“I’m thinking so. There’s certainly a lot of support for this proposal.”

Hillman said at times trains roll through town every 30 minutes and up to two dozen trains have been counted in a 24-hour period.

And the number of crossings doesn’t help. “There’s four crossings, so they get everybody.”

Innisfail chief administrative officer Helen Dietz said she is looking into the issue, which has arisen before. She plans to scour county files for noise studies and other background work that was done when the issue arose a number of years ago. A report will then go to council, likely by the end of the month.

Council will then decide what action to take.

Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. spokesman Kevin Hrysak said the company has not received a formal request to look at the train whistle issue, but would work with the community if asked.

There is a process in place through Transport Canada to handle such requests. The sequence of horn blasts that begins 400 metres before a crossing is a Transport Canada requirement.

“But at any point if it does create any type of risk or reduces safety in any measure, obviously we won’t go through with that,” said Hrysak. “Whistles are the No. 1 safety appliance we have, regardless of whether crossings are equipped with bells, gates, whistles or lights.

“I mean, this is the last line of defence for oncoming motorists or pedestrians or anything approaching the train.”

Compromises have been reached in the past. The City of Leduc consulted with residents before making crossing improvements and fencing off both sides of the track to the satisfaction of Transport Canada. The process took about 10 years, says a staff report to Strathcona County, which passed a motion to prepare a train whistle minimizing policy in August.

It also took Parkland County about a decade to stifle the whistles at a crossing at Ardrossan.

Hyrsak said a number of steps are involved, including undertaking risk assessments. Fencing, or even an agreement requiring the community to take on insurance, may be required.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

— copyright Red Deer Advocate

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