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Step closer to stopping train whistle

Two crossing improvements remain on city's rail safety improvement program
1008 whistle cessation DR23
Children walk on a sidewalk near Sir Winston Churchill Avenue and Riel Drive on in St. Albert on July 26, 2019. DAN RIEDLHUBER/St. Albert Gazette

Completion this past spring of an 8.3-kilometre fence along the CN rail corridor signals the near-completion of safety measures required for the city to apply for whistle cessation.

Railway safety upgrades have been in the works for years, and the city says only two major projects remain on the checklist before St. Albert could apply to Transport Canada for CN trains to stop blowing their whistle through the municipality.

St. Albert manager of transportation Dean Schick said the remaining projects under the city’s rail safety improvement program are the crossings at Riel Drive and Meadowview Drive, which involves the proximity of accesses to the rail corridor.

“With that, we essentially would be putting a checkbox by a high majority of the recommendations made for the corridor through St. Albert, and our application would be pretty strong I believe,” he said.

Schick could not provide a timeline on those final improvements, and said they are at the concept stage.

CN operators are required by law to proactively blow their whistles at certain intersections while travelling through the St. Albert corridor. Applying for whistle cessation would remove that requirement to blow whistles unless it is needed.

St. Albert city council passed a whistle cessation bylaw in 2016, but it will not be enacted until an application by the city and CN is approved by Transport Canada.

One of the big-ticket items on the railway improvement list was installing a fence along the corridor through St. Albert, which was tendered at $882,000. The federal government covered $500,000 of that through its rail safety improvement program.

Schick said at the heart of it, the city is pursuing a whistle cessation application because council heard concerns from residents about whistles being blown at “all times of the day and night.”

Coun. Wes Brodhead said people with insomnia are suffering because train whistles are waking them up in the night, and the city should work to alleviate their pain.

“When people suffer in our community, I think we should do something about it,” he said. “If they think the money we spent on a fence is not worth alleviating the suffering of some of their fellow citizens, then I’m not sure I can win an argument with you.”

A CN spokesperson said in an email the company is working in collaboration with St. Albert to support whistle cessation.

“In collaboration with the City and Transport Canada, CN will assess all the implemented measures to prevent trespassing and improve the safety as part of the whistle cessation process.”

A request to Transport Canada for statistics shows there have been no accidents involving motor vehicles or people in St. Albert within the past three years.

Hannah Lawson

About the Author: Hannah Lawson

Hannah Lawson joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2019 after working as editor of the Athabasca Advocate. She writes about city hall.
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