Railway, ‘Jake brakes’ causing concern over excessive noise

PORT HAWKESBURY: Town councillors continued to discuss two different excessive noise concerns that have been a pain in the ear to the residents of the Town of Port Hawkesbury during council’s Committee of the Whole meeting last Tuesday.

Town officials have been seeking options following complaints in recent weeks about the use of Jacobs-brand compression-release engine brakes, more commonly known as “Jake brakes,” on vehicles making their way through the town, as well as complaints about the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway, which affected one business by disrupting the overnight stay of their guests.

Port Hawkesbury CAO Terry Doyle said along with Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton, they met with Staff Sgt. Greg Redl in July to review the law and whether the use of ‘Jake brakes’ is covered under the Motor Vehicle Act.

The high-volume ‘Jake brake’ noise is a primarily concern at the eastern end of Reeves Street, where it returns residential and intersects with Highway 4A. Sgt. Redl noted that Reeves Street is a 50km/h zone, so the law applies and is enforceable, Doyle said.

“So what he indicated to us was that it would work with motor vehicle compliance officers who look after the trucking industry,” he said. “They would monitor it to the best of their ability and would enforce that law.”

Doyle also advised that the Staff Sergeant brought the issue of the use of ‘Jake brakes’ up at the recent police advisory committee meeting.

Erin MacEachen, the town’s finance director, who was in attendance at the meeting, said local officers are aware of the issue and will enforce it to the best of their ability.

“Signs are not required under the Motor Vehicle Act and truckers should know the laws,” she said. “There are not resources available to sit and wait for that to occur on Reeves Street.”

Mayor Chisholm-Beaton said council and Sgt. Redl have been in communication with residents who’ve complained in the past to figure out when the use of ‘Jake brakes’ were occurring, so the RCMP could target those times.

“It’s happening early morning, late at night and during the suppertime period, [so] rather than just by accident, coming across that occurring – they’re watching at those peak times,” she said. “Hopefully it’s a partnership between concerned citizens, our RCMP and the Town of Port Hawkesbury.”

On the other side of town, it’s the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway that’s causing complaints over excessive noise concerns.

One of the railway’s primary customers is moving coal from the coal pier to Trenton, which is a just in time delivery, Doyle said.

“Just in time delivery means that the coal arrives at [the] Trenton power plant just prior to 6:00 a.m., so that means that it leaves Port Hawkesbury at 3 a.m.”

Under the current situation, the train is required to start blowing their whistle when they get to a certain point on the track to accommodate for the laws around operating their system through the town.

In prior meetings council has talked about and indicated concerns around three crossings with officials with the railway, Doyle said.

“Two public crossings, one at Philpott Street and another at MacSween Street,” he said. “Another crossing that is considered an issue is the path that leads from Granville Green down to the railroad.”

The railroad in Port Hawkesbury used to operate on a 24-hour schedule, which is now down to a 12-hour schedule, simply for the fact many of the larger customers are no longer present.

Doyle advised the time frame has to be 3 a.m. to 3 p.m., to accommodate the railway’s primary customer, Nova Scotia Power.

The first thing that was brought up at the council table was the possibility of eliminating the Philpott public crossing since it’s only used by town employees to access land on the other side of the tracks.

“It is possible for the town to move forward and apply to Transport Canada to discontinue the public crossing at Philpott,” Doyle said. “The other crossing at MacSween, which is right on the waterfront, is not the same case – that has to be open, it’s a well-used crossing.”

Officials with the railway, who’ve reviewed this with the town before, said the only alternative to blowing their whistle is to create a system of lights, bells and crossing guards, which comes with an estimated price tag of $70,000.

Doyle noted the officials did caution the noise from the bells is considerable and maybe just as bad as the noise from the train.

“They also indicated that removing Phillpot would do very little to reduce the length of time they would have to blow their whistle,” he said. “Because Phillpot, MacSween and the Town of Port Hawkesbury are very close in proximity.”