Trains are still using their whistles through Maple Ridge almost a year after city hall began an abatement process. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

Why are train whistles still blasting in Maple Ridge?

Abatement process started a year ago, complains resident

Robert Massey wants to know why train whistles are still echoing through Maple Ridge a year after the city said it was beginning Transport Canada’s whistle cessation process.

The Maple Ridge resident said the whistles still wake him up at night, and are so loud he has to stop a patio conversation to let the one finish.

The city said it was starting the cessation process last May.

“Nothing seems to be happening,” Massey said.

Meanwhile, there are an increasing number of trains and blasting “whistles.”

At his Rosewood Court apartment, near 116th Avenue and 227th Street, Massey has the tracks as a neighbour about a block and a half away, and the trains are a persistent disruption.

He said some trains blast three or four whistles, while others go as many as nine.

“It bothers me. The noise is terrible,” he said. “And it’s all hours of the day.”

Last week, he wrote to Darrell Denton, property and risk manager for the city, and Mayor Nicole Read.

“It has been four years since I first made my request to council for action in dealing with the train whistles, so I hope you can appreciate my frustration in having to continue to wake up many mornings to the whistle blasts, which can number up to nine by a single train passing through,” he wrote. “The disturbances also extend to all hours of the night and to the extent of just looking towards a peaceful relaxation on one’s balcony during the day. For the record, I am not adjacent to the railway tracks.

“In conclusion, I would like to know what is causing the delay, and when the residents of Maple Ridge exposed to these disturbances can expect relief?”

Read said she will follow up with staff, but was not surprised it is taking time to have the whistles stopped.

“It’s an issue of safety for the railway,” she said. “We’ve had incidents already – people have been hit.”

There were three known such accidents in 2017 in Maple Ridge.

There was an SUV hit by a train in December, and a woman and her daughter were able to walk away from it.

In June, a pedestrian was hit by a freight train, and he also survived.

In July, a man suffered broken bones but lived after being hit by a train.

There was also a massive explosion and fire after a semi-trailer carrying ethanol struck a train in Port Coquitlam.

Denton responded that he is dealing with the proper authorities to have train whistles silenced in the city, but it is not a fast process.

He hoped to have the whistles stopped by spring, but with a better appreciation for the process – dealing with approvals from multiple levels of government and their respective agencies, as well as the rail companies themselves, he is reticent to suggest a hard date.

“That said, I believe the ‘heavy lifting’ is done in that we have the engineering reports in hand and have a solid handle on the requisite works to be completed in advance of the final approvals,” he said.

“In short, while the formal process as prescribed by Transport Canada is taking longer than originally anticipated, the city continues to move the initiative forward,” said Denton. “We are in constant dialogue with Transport Canada and CP Rail and are currently working to complete the necessary remedial works to bring each of the crossings into compliance with the Federal guidelines.”

The key is ensuring that all level crossings have lights, bells and control arms in place. An engineering study had identified minor improvements at the rail crossings in Maple Ridge, at an approximate cost of $30,000.

A year ago, council was presented with a petition from residents who asked the city to help quiet the train blasts.

Council approved staff taking whistle cessation steps required by Transport Canada for eight public railway crossings in Maple Ridge, excluding the crossing at Bell Pole Spur on River Road in Albion.

Their efforts should quiet both freight and passenger trains, including the West Coast Express.

“In short, we continue to push forward ensuring that we are in compliance with Transport Canada Guidelines, albeit at a slower pace than originally anticipated,” added Denton.

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