White Rock’s waterfront should be a little quieter, as far as noise from trains is concerned.
Last week, Transport Canada revoked its order – issued last summer – that all trains sound “a repetitive succession of short horn blasts” when travelling along the waterfront from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Now, a standard warning – two long blasts, a short blast and a third long blast – is only required as the trains approach and exit the waterfront area.
Regular whistling protocol still applies to anytime the train engineer feels a warning is warranted. As well, train bells are still required to be sounded along the length of the promenade.
“Basically, we’re back to where we were before (the July 2013 death of a jogger on East Beach tracks),” Greg St. Louis, White Rock’s director of engineering and municipal operations, said Wednesday.
City manager Dan Bottrill said the repetitive-whistling order was revoked following a determination by Transport Canada officials that “sufficient progress” has been made with regard to safety along the waterfront rail line.
“We have made a number of different improvements,” Bottrill said, citing work in East Beach that has included adjustments to the grade of pedestrian crossings, the addition of mesh to hand railing and the addition of approximately 230 metres of hand railing to close gaps in the barrier.
“Transport Canada looked at the progress of those safety improvements and were satisfied that the threat to safety of pedestrians (was reduced).”
The seasonal drop in the number of beach visitors was also considered, he said, adding the decision is to be reviewed early next year.
The news from Transport Canada does not mean the end of changes to the waterfront, however. Further work, including the addition of mesh to hand railing west of the pier, is still to come.
Bottrill and St. Louis said the mesh will not be added until the crossings – near Oxford and Anderson streets – are completed, work that is hoped to be finished by the summer.
Residents who routinely walk the promenade told Peace Arch News they are concerned that the cost of the work – which is a hot topic of conversation – is being borne by taxpayers.
However, Bottrill said grants to help fund all of the rail-safety projects have been applied for through Transport Canada’s Grade Crossing Improvement Program, which covers up to 50 per cent of each eligible project’s cost, to a maximum of $550,000. He is optimistic that the available funding will be awarded, but said official word will not come until sometime in the spring.
Regardless, “one thing we do know is we don’t want to have continued whistling in White Rock,” he said.
Aside from the grade adjustments to the East Beach crossings, which were paid for by BNSF, all costs of the rail-safety work to date have been footed by the city, he said.