Spending $1.8m to limit train whistles in White Rock 'a waste,' task force hears
A majority of those who are voicing an opinion on whether White Rock should spend $1.8 million in order to keep train whistling to a minimum along the waterfront are not in favour of the expense, those looking into the issue say.
Coun. Grant Meyer, chair of the city's new rail safety task force, said about 90 per cent of the people who have contacted him by phone, email and when he's out in the community think the expenditure would be "a waste of money" – that overnight train whistles will continue regardless.
"It's been pretty overwhelming," Meyer told Peace Arch News of the feedback.
He shared the information with task force members Tuesday, during a meeting at city hall.
The $1.8-million figure was disclosed last month, estimated by a consultant as the cost of upgrading the city's six pedestrian rail crossings with flashing lights, gates and other features.
The review was mandated by Transport Canada last fall, following the death of a jogger who was struck and killed by a train on East Beach.
Another $700,000 worth of work was identified as likely to be required complete within five years to meet Transport Canada's new safety guidelines for grade crossings.
But while the consultant laid out the work as two issues, city engineer Greg St. Louis said both projects may have to be undertaken in the name of safety, regardless of any potential impact to train whistles.
"They are really combined, the rail safety and the whistle cessation," Greg St. Louis told the task force.
"With the amount of foot traffic down there, one could say that (the work) would be required for both."
Task force members agreed the pressing issue is improving safety.
"We're going to have whistles no matter what happens," said Coun. Al Campbell, referring to train engineers' latitude to sound the warning signal at any time they feel it's warranted. "And who are we to question it?"
Meyer told PAN he remains opposed to installing flashing lights and signal arms, but "definitely" supports a combination of improved signage and other measures that encourage waterfront visitors to pay attention to the tracks.
Coun. Larry Robinson agreed the message around the danger the tracks pose has to be clear.
"We almost have to shock them – 'this is dangerous, stay away'," he said.
The task force also discussed the issue of dangerous goods being transported along the local line.
Robinson said the issue has grown from trains pulling three or four cars with such products to their entire load being compromised of the likes of crude oil.
The group resolved to ask council to direct staff to discuss with Transport Canada and railway owner BNSF the feasibility of piloting a system that would provide pre-information on trains pulling such loads to the city's fire chief.