PENHOLD – The town is expected to know by the end of the month whether train whistles will just be a loud irritant of the past.
Mayor Mike Yargeau said the town is midway through a mandatory month-long approval process with CP Rail. He said final approval is expected by the end of the month and he’s confident the town’s application will be successful.
“We have sent everything in we need to. (CP Rail) have done their safety study and they think it wouldn’t cause any problems,” said Yargeau, adding no further discussions have taken place during the approval waiting period. “No, we are just waiting out the process now. We are within weeks, by the end of April. We fully expect to go ahead once approved.”
He said when the approval issue was put out to the public the town received only one letter of objection.
“They actually didn’t live in Penhold. They actually lived in Innisfail,” said Yargeau. “They were just against it in principle no matter where it was.”
Last February, Penhold council passed a motion to direct administration to move forward with the train whistle cessation process at the town’s two public grade crossings. The town’s move followed an increasing number of public complaints in recent years about loud train whistles, along with concerns there are now up to 18 trains coming through town daily, with some up to three kilometres long.
In the meantime, both the City of Lacombe and the Town of Innisfail are also pursuing train whistle cessation but the issues for both are far different.
Yargeau said his town’s whistle cessation issue differs from Innisfail because its neighbouring municipality’s public safety issue is far more urgent.
He is aware that hundreds of children in Innisfail are illegally crossing the tracks at a point called White Rock Crossing to go back and forth from home to school.
Yargeau noted the Penhold tracks run close to the western border of town and there are only nine houses on its west side, which results in only a few crossings. Penhold School is near CP Rail property but citizens do not have to cross the tracks to access it, noted Yargeau.
“There are very few houses on the west side of the tracks. There has never been a big issue as far as kids crossing and going back,” said Yargeau. “Innisfail is in a different situation as they have more crossings and they are used differently. CP Rail might have more safety concerns about it in Innisfail because the tracks run right through town,” said Yargeau, noting one of the two crossings in Penhold is residential but is utilized by residents and visitors to just two houses. The other is at Highway 592.
In the meantime, the Town of Innisfail is currently going through a comprehensive process on train whistle cessation and how to improve public safety at its existing crossings. It’s expected the town will be hiring a consultant as part of that process.