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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A3

Vavenby stops whistle cont’ A Regional Glance Edson

No Whistle Twin tracks 2 Crossings Arms, bells, lights Runs through town

Hinton

Whistle – upheld by community Single track 1 Crossing, Arms, bells, lights Runs through town

Jasper

No Whistle 2 Tracks 1 Crossing. Arms, bells, lights Runs adjacent to town

McBride

Whistle Twin tracks 1 Crossing, No arms Runs through town

Vavenby

No Whistle Twin tracks 1 Crossing Arms, lights, bells. Runs through town

Valemount

Whistle Single track 2 Crossings No arms Runs through town

Chase

Whistle Twin tracks 2 crossings within 200 metres One crossing with arms Runs through town Status: Request on hold with CP rail *Note: The information provided above is for initial comparisons only. Other factors related to cost and safety are not included here.

Concerns about safety are not the only barriers to getting rid of the whistle. While a CN rail brochure on eliminating train whistles suggests it can take six months to a year, requesters often meet a head-spinning process that can take six years or more. Judy Alexandre, like many residents, lives along the tracks in Vavenby. She started the campaign to eliminate the whistle about six years ago. She wrote letters explaining what it’s like living next to the tracks and sent them to all levels of government. That was in 2004. The Thompson-Nicola Regional District took up Vavenby’s cause, submitting requests on their behalf. Liz Cornwell, who handles whistle requests at the district, says despite the overwhelming support in Vavenby to remove the whistle, the process still took five years. “It can be very frustrating for everybody,” she says. “They’re bothered by the whistle and they do a petition and, understandably, I think they would like a quicker response.” She says the process “goes all over the

Photo: Laura Keil Gord Vollans looks out at the tracks from his backyard in Vavenby. His family has lived 26 years next to the tracks. At about 30 trains a day, roughly 280,000 trains have passed.

place” depending on the safety issues at the crossing. Part of the problem is the number of agencies involved. For each request, submissions must be made to the railway company, the road authority – either the Ministry of Transportation, the village or the railway – Transport Canada, and a Transportation Engineer hired by the community or regional district. “It always sounds easy, but I can tell you it’s challenging to keep these things moving forward,” she says.

She is currently managing requests to stop whistles in three communities: Blue River, McClure and just outside Chase. She says the crossing request for outside the Village of Chase is straightforward: the track is fairly straight and the crossing has lights, bells and gates. She is waiting for CP rail to cut some grass obstructing visibility and for the rail line to ask a property owner to trim some tree branches. “It’s just a waiting game now.” But even after wait-

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ing, it’s not always a positive outcome. Sometimes the transportation engineer hired by the district or the village deems the crossing unsafe for whistle elimination because of trespassers, obstructed sight lines or other variables. “They may say, ‘No it’s totally unsafe for a number of reasons,’ or they may say, ‘Yeah, if you do these certain things.’” The district pays for an engineering study from the tax dollars it collects. Each study costs between $10,000 to $20,000. The request from Blue River first came to the district in 2004. Six years later, it is at a standstill. The railway company advised Cornwell this winter there is too much trespassing in the area and Transport Canada will not approve cessation unless

the district builds a fence to stop trespassing. “We’re still stuck at the fence stage,” Cornwell says. The file is still open but the district is not prepared to build a fence because of liability, she says. She has, however, inquired about how long the fence should be and how high. The process takes much longer than six months to a year, she says. For people like Alexandre who live near the tracks and have to live with the continual blare of train horns, the long haul is worth it. “It was just heaven when they quit.” Do you have a comment on a story? Write us: lkeil@therockymountaingoat.com

The Rocky Mountain Goat will be distributed weekly starting June 22, 2010


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