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Whistle cessation agreement reached

Residents along New Westminster Quay may soon get relief from train whistles after the railways and the City reached a memorandum of understanding that includes construction of a controlled crossing on Quayside Drive. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Residents along New Westminster Quay may soon get relief from train whistles after the railways and the City reached a memorandum of understanding that includes construction of a controlled crossing on Quayside Drive.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

A big step has been taken toward silencing train whistles and giving many New Westminster residents a more peaceful sleep according to Coun. Chuck Puchmayr.

On Friday, the city announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) had been reached with Southern Railway of British Columbia (SRY) and Port Metro Vancouver (PMV).

Both the city and SRY have pledged $500,000 to implement measures such as signalization to improve several crossings used by the railway in Queensborough and on the mainland where SRY's tracks stretch from Quayside to Trapp Road.

Puchmayr, who chairs a railway advisory committee established in August 2012 to examine the issue of train whistling, said the MOU was historic because a railway committed money to such a project.

"To me that's unheard of. It's a milestone in railway negotiations," said Puchmayr.

He pointed out a similar agreement for the Begbie Street crossing was reached earlier with three other railways but in that case the city will have to pay for the improvements.

"A lot of the work [on the Begbie crossing] has already been done," said Puchmayr. "Our engineers are just about finished the analysis of what has to be upgraded to make things work. Once that's completed it goes to Transport Canada, and if the railways have agreed with it they normally rubber stamp it."

He added PMV, which owns many of the properties SRY connects to in Queensborough, also has some money available for the project.

"I don't think $1 million will do all of them. We'll find out what the estimates for the crossings are, but it will do the lion's share of them. Some of them are crossings that are on land owned by the city so there might be the ability to eliminate some of those crossings," said Puchmayr, who estimated the eventual total cost at about $1.5 million.

He'd like to start with the crossing that bends across Quayside Drive and cuts between two condominium complexes and parallel to a playground before crossing the Fraser River into Queensborough. He noted the crossing is a bit of a challenge because it crosses the street on a curve.

SRY president and CEO Frank Butzelaar said in a press release the agreement is part of the New Westminster-based company's ongoing effort to mitigate impacts it has "on communities in which we live and work."

Puchmayr said with so many entities involved and so much technical work to be done it can be a long process. But there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

"I would hope Begbie is completed this year, and I would hope some of the Southern projects are completed this year as well. That's my hopes but I'm not the engineer and not the builder," said Puchmayr.

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