Petition urges Lacombe to quiet train whistles

The constant din of trains roaring through Lacombe, blasting their whistles has become “unbearable,” a local resident told council on Monday.

The constant din of trains roaring through Lacombe, blasting their whistles has become “unbearable,” a local resident told council on Monday.

Blake Enns said the number of trains passing through the community has drastically increased in recent years and a CP Rail employee told him, “You haven’t seen anything yet.

“My whole house shakes,” said Enns, who has lived on the northeast side of Lacombe on Pickwick Lane.

Besides increasing train traffic on the Edmonton-to-Calgary link, trains are now moving faster through the community since improvements were made to a crossing and the rail corridor along Hwy 2A a few years ago.

Enns presented an informal petition of 20 names calling on a stop to the whistles and a reduction in train speed.

Stew Shields, who lives near the tracks on Hathaway Lane, shares Enns’s frustration with the racket.

“If it were a drilling rig on the outside of the city it would be shut down immediately,” he said. “It’s noise pollution.”

While council members were sympathetic, Enns was told convincing rail companies to stop using a safety measure, such as whistles, can be a very tough sell.

Both Ponoka and Blackfalds have also tried to quiet whistles with no success.

Mayor Steve Christie said CP Rail — if it was willing to consider a whistle ban — would require the city to pay for a safety assessment, take out liability insurance and foot the cost of other upgrades, such as additional fencing.

Christie, who sits on the boards of the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, said rail safety is a big issue, especially since the rail disaster in Lac-Mégantic in Quebec, where a train derailed in the middle of the community, killing almost 50 people.

But the discussion has been around how better to protect communities, not eliminating whistles.

Not all residents want to see the warning blasts gone, said Coun. Wayne Rempel. On one local social media site 60 to 70 residents were opposed to silencing the whistles.

Council also looked at the issue previously and a committee recommended not pursuing it.

On Monday, council voted to ask administration to see what the requirements and the costs would be to negotiate with CP Rail for a whistle-free zone. Public input would also be needed before council decided to take the issue any further, council agreed.

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