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Idling trains noise impact 'very low', residents told

by Jeff Outhit

A study predicts idling commuter trains will be quieter than allowed by the province, when GO Transit starts parking two trains in central Kitchener next year.

“The study tells us that the noise impact will be very low,” said Greg Ashbee, who manages infrastructure expansion planning for the provincial transit service.

GO Transit commissioned the study in deciding to park trains overnight between Park and King streets, instead of at one of six other locations publicly considered for layovers.

Some residents who live near the tracks worry about noise and fumes from diesel locomotives that will idle for an hour in the evenings and mornings.

The study predicts noise impacts reaching 38 to 53 decibels, at eight homes between 40 and 250 metres away. The province allows for residential impacts up to 55 decibels.

To compare, 55 decibels is a normal conversation while 40 decibels is a quiet room, according to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

GO Transit will discuss the noise study and neighbourhood impacts Thursday at an open house. It’s from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the DeGroote School of Medicine at 10 Victoria Street S.

Two commuter trains linking Kitchener and Toronto will launch late next year. Passengers will use the Via Rail station on Victoria Street North.

Trains with 12 passenger cars will depart Kitchener on weekdays between 5:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. and return between 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The trip will take about two hours each way. Trains will not run on weekends.

Ashbee expects locomotives may start idling around 5 a.m. The noise study uses a computer model to predict worst-case impacts, described as all the equipment running at once. Impacts are estimated for upper floors where bedrooms are typically located.

The worst-case impact includes noise from two idling locomotives, 48 heating and cooling units on passenger cars, an air compressor that helps locomotives idle quietly, two hot air blowers that clear snow from tracks and an electrical transformer that may hum or buzz.

Noise impacts are not actual measurements. The study estimates the loudness of equipment and calculates impacts on nearby residences based on factors such as distance, topography, absorption by air, muffling by ground and shielding by buildings.

GO Transit says there will be little impact from vibration and predicts air quality and odour impacts will be low.

Stratford Mayor Dan Mathieson says his city wants trains to park there overnight. The city 45 kilometres west of Kitchener hopes to persuade GO Transit to open a passenger station.

Ashbee said Stratford doesn’t have enough room to park trains and is outside the area served by transit.

Parking trains in Kitchener saves money by reducing distances travelled without passengers, Ashbee said. GO Transit intends to park trains in central Kitchener for a few years before moving them to a $20-million layover facility in Wilmot Township.

GO Transit has not revealed its cost to park trains in central Kitchener but Ashbee said it is much cheaper than the Wilmot facility.