By Laura Keil, Publisher/Editor
Valemount Council was slated to consider Tuesday night whether or not to apply to the Canadian Transportation Agency for a reduction in fees it would pay for adding crossing arms to the two rail crossings inside Village limits.
Transport Canada will cover 50% of the cost. CN Rail has proposed it cover 25% and the Village cover the other 25%.
But after research on the Rail Safety Act, Village staff believe the Village’s portion could be lowered to just 12.5% (with CN picking up the difference), which would reduce the cost to the Village from $183,000 to $91,000 for each crossing. That money could be budgeted from the Village’s surplus, which is sitting at a healthy $1.5M this year.
Installing crossing arms in town is a no-brainer, and one that is especially personal for me, as I’ve never gotten used to the nightly disruptions of the horn and have suffered severe sleep deprivation and erosion of my quality of life. I know this is true for many other light sleepers, though I also know some who argue they like the train horn. I’ve also heard about tourists high-tailing it out of campgrounds due to the noise. There is some impact on our economy and our ability to become a premiere tourist destination. Even our recently-updaded Official Community Plan notes that Council should consider a whistle cessation study.
But every resident can get behind crossing arms for one reason: safety.
It’s human nature to want to “beat the train” as it comes through town. Who wants to wait in an idling vehicle for 5-6 minutes while counting 100 train cars?
We’ve all seen cars and bikes racing to cross before the train gets there, and we’ve all probably snuck through after the lights start flashing. It’s human nature. But what if there’s a collision between people trying to cross in opposite directions? What happens when it’s not grain in the train, but something deadly?
For those of us beleaguered by the train’s wall-piercing decibels, this is the first step to having a chance at a quiet night—quiet often being the pride of small towns. But getting rid of the whistle is a separate initiative that comes later. Right now, we have an important choice to make: do we wait for a tragedy at the crossings or do we act definitively?
There is simply no reason to delay.
I hope that even if the Canadian Transport Agency doesn’t approve the reduction in fees that Council sees the value that so many of us do and makes this investment for our future.