An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
ONE OF THE FIRST THINGS that gets asked when residents complain about train whistles is, who was there first?
Usually, it was the trains. People build houses near train tracks knowing what they’re getting into. Trains once ran down Victoria Street, so residents have lived with the trains for almost 140 years.
Now, though, residents along Lorne Street in the area of 7th and 8th Avenues are complaining about the noise and want the whistles stopped. The trains were there before they built their homes so one might suppose they don’t have much of a case.
However, rail traffic has increased since then. What was once tolerable has become a much more prevalent rumbling and whistling at all hours of the day and night.
In order to fix the problem, the City has obtained a preliminary estimate of $1.2 million. That sounds like a lot of money to stop train whistles but getting rid of them is a complicated, long-drawn-out process.
It requires detailed studies of the level crossings, including their condition and configuration, and existing safety measures such as signals and gates. Fences have to be built to make absolutely certain no one can get around the gates when they’re lowered. The crossings — there are three of them — themselves might have to be upgraded.
Both capital improvements and operating costs must be paid by the local government, and any land acquisition costs would be on top of that.
The source of funding hasn’t been identified, though senior government grants might be available. And there’s no guarantee the studies will result in the issuance of permits — one of the crossings in question is, to say the least, awkward.
So is it worth it? Well, municipalities are supposed to do their best to enhance the livability of their cities. If the whistles on Lorne Street can be removed safely, residents there deserve a break from the noise and vibration.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at email@example.com.