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Train whistle issue makes return trip to council

Council gives go-ahead to crossing upgrades, delays fencing funding

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 18, 2013 06:00 am

SOMETHING RUMBLING? – St. Albert city council returned to the debate over train whistles in the city limits on Monday.
SOMETHING RUMBLING? – St. Albert city council returned to the debate over train whistles in the city limits on Monday.
FILE PHOTO/St. Albert Gazette

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The quest for whistle cessation in St. Albert could get back on track thanks to the recently-passed budget.

While there is still several boxes to tick in the city’s on-again, off-again attempt to get the trains to stop using their whistles in St. Albert, city council green-lit safety improvements at the Levasseur Road crossing during their budget deliberations.

Rather than move forward immediately on fencing, council, thanks to a motion from Coun. Cathy Heron, decided to fund the safety upgrades for the crossing and delay the fencing.

There has been some confusion over what the fencing requirements would be.

“That money is actually adequate to do the safety improvements at the intersection. And that will give us an opportunity to take a look at what other options are required for fencing. There’s a number of opinions of what’s required for fencing at the crossing,” said David Hales, general manager of planning and engineering for the city.

Transport Canada has indicated it would be receptive to a grant application from the city to refund the money it could spend on upgrading the Levasseur crossing, Hales said. Whistle cessation is a separate thing from the crossing itself and requires more than just a fence, though that’s part of it.

“We would have to do all the bylaw work on that but you actually have to have all these other measures in place before you can do the bylaw work,” Hales said.

At a recent public budget meeting, Hales said it could several more years before the whistles actually stop blowing in St. Albert. During an interview Monday, he said that was based on past experience with pursuing whistle cessation.

“It really depends on circumstances,” Hales said, noting CN Rail and Transport Canada would have to sign off on the application.

“I think the message is that we’re working on it,” Hales said, adding that the safety improvements at Levasseur crossing will go ahead, grant or no, thanks to the city council motion.

Coun. Wes Brodhead has been a champion of whistle cessation. “It was gratifying to see a continuation of the program through the budget,” Brodhead said. “Is it a done deal yet? No.”

Questions around fencing include positioning, for example: does it need to go around all the tracks, or just the crossings? Brodhead said he’d like to avoid the chain link fence, “gulag” look.

“If there’s a fencing requirement we want a fence that meets the safety requirements but is also aesthetically pleasing,” Brodhead said.

He’s not convinced it will take another six years from now to get the cessation.

“I’m honestly hopeful that 2016, that this is a done deal. But unless council is really committed to it, it will probably take extra time. Sometimes it’s all about the drive to get something done,” Brodhead said.


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