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White Rock council receives petition focusing on trains

Hundreds of signatures from White Rock and Surrey in 67-page document presented Monday.
White Rock resident Susan Pousette asks rail-forum panelists why coal trains aren't covered.

A petition aimed at preventing further fencing along White Rock's promenade, quelling train whistles and relocating the waterfront train tracks was submitted to White Rock council Monday – with at least one of its goals already achieved.

The 67-page, 666-name document, submitted by White Rock resident Pat Petrala, calls on the federal government and "all other bodies… to cease sounding train horns continuously from dawn to dusk."

An increase in the whistles was the result of a Transport Canada order issued to railway owner BNSF last month after an "immediate threat" to safety was noted by an inspector.

It directed BNSF to ensure trains moving along the waterfront sounded a "repetitive succession of short horn blasts" from dusk until dawn. Soon after, area residents were reporting being disturbed by the noise at all hours of the night.

On July 9, a revised whistling order was issued to clarify that the horn blasts were only mandatory from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Petrala's petition also calls for better communication and more constructive dialogue with the community and stakeholders, and for collaboration on cost-sharing for controlled pedestrian crossings.

In explaining the petition's roots, Petrala cited public outcry over the closure of West Beach railing gaps, the installation of a locked gate at the boat launch (which was later removed) and rampant "rumours and misinformation" about how and why it all came about.

"People were unsure of who to advocate with and there was confusion of jurisdictions and responsibility," she said. "The entanglements and blame with deflection or referral to another source was frustrating."

While council did not question Petrala regarding the petition, Mayor Wayne Baldwin commented after her presentation that "you probably echoed what council was feeling."

Baldwin also countered Petrala on the amount of community dialogue achieved at a July 7 forum on rail safety and transportation of dangerous goods.

Petrala noted just 23 minutes was allotted to questions from the crowd; Baldwin said much more dialogue was had after the specified question period, when he and many other officials stayed behind for up to an hour to speak with attendees.

Of those who signed the petition, 439 live in White Rock, and 179 provided a Surrey address. Petrala said it will also be taken to the local MP's and MLA's offices, as well as presented to Transport Canada.



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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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