New Brunswick

Saint John moves closer to banning train whistles

A ban on train whistles is about to take effect in parts of east Saint John following Monday night’s council meeting.

Coun. Gerry Lowe says train whistles should stop at 2 crossings by early September

Saint John council is moving closer to outlawing train whistles at two crossings in the city. (CBC)

A ban on train whistles is about to take effect in parts of east Saint John following Monday night's council meeting.

Saint John council authorized the publishing of an official notice warning motorists and others that there will be a motion banning train horns at the Rothesay Avenue and Thorne Avenue crossings.

Both crossings already have automatic barriers to stop traffic when a train is approaching.

Once the city gives notice of its intention, council can go ahead with the vote on banning train whistles. That vote is expected on Aug. 31.

"I can't see any roadblock," said Coun. Gerry Lowe, although it is contingent upon approval from New Brunswick Southern Railway and the minister of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Lowe said he expects the whistles will stop in early September.

Train traffic on the two crossings has increased dramatically in recent years.

Short trains are frequently travelling between the main rail yard in east Saint John and the crude oil terminal off Bayside Drive.

People living in nearby neighbourhoods frequently complain about the loss of sleep and the stress from the noise of the train horns.

Ian Simpson, NB Southern Railway's general manager, wrote a letter to Bill Edwards, the city's acting manager, indicating the company will support the measure.

"NBSR does not generally support removing layers of safety," he wrote, but the company will proceed with the change subject to a satisfactory risk assessment by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure and a determination by the minister, Roger Melanson. 

According to city documents, the department conducted risk assessments on the two crossings in August 2014 and July 2015 and found "no reasons the two crossings could not be considered for an anti-whistling exemption."

The city has agreed to assume liability should there be a rail accident caused by the absence of a train whistle.

That's not something that Coun. Bill Farren said he is comfortable with.

"I have trouble putting this burden on the rest of the taxpayers of Saint John," said Farren.

Farren was the only councillor to vote against the motion.

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