Two roads in Dawn-Euphemia which cross the Canadian Pacific Railroad have been shutdown by Transport Canada.
And a security guard has been hired to help drivers across the line on Fansher Road.
That after a 78 year-old man was killed crossing the track on Euphemia Line Nov. 16.
Michil DeMaiter was trying to cross the CP track on Euphemia Line east of Cairo Road – where the rail lines run at a 45-degree angle to the road – when the southbound train struck the truck. The box broke, spilling grain over the tracks and the cab was pulled about 500 meters down the track.
It took nearly 24 hours to clear the track.
Shortly after the accident CP and Transport Canada came to Dawn-Euphemia Public Works Manager Paul Dalton and ordered him to close Euphemia Line, Bilton Line and CP placed a security guard at Fansher Road – which has a number of home on it – to help traffic cross safely. “I’m here to make sure you look both ways before crossing,” he told a reporter crossing the track Monday. “We want to make sure you get across safely.”
Signs have been planted in the middle of Euphemia and Bilton Road and three-foot high cement barriers have been placed across the road at the tracks into the ditch area on both sides of the track to ensure a vehicle can’t even attempt to cross.
“CP and Transport Canada is conducting their investigation,” says Dalton adding it isn’t clear when or if the roads will reopen. “They’re taking a look at the different avenues of what they can do.”
Just down the road in Thamesville, another crossing with a similar problem is still closed eight months after a man died crossing there. In Chatham-Kent, officials are rerouting the road to a safer crossing. That work is almost complete.
Shane Sloan is hopeful whatever the fix in Dawn-Euphemia, it won’t take that long. Sloan of Sloan’s Nursery is the main user of Euphemia Line. He moves his equipment over Euphemia every day and hasn’t been told what is going on.
“Our main farm is on one side of the tracks and we have couple of others on the other side. Euphemia is the main crossing for tractors and sprayers,” he tells The Independent.
“There are ways around it – they all take longer and cost money.”
“My concern is if they permanently close it – which I don’t see them doing; I won’t let them. I will fight it until they do something about it.”
Dawn-Euphemia officials should have a better idea Monday what might happen. CP Rail officials will meet privately with council to talk about the accident, what needs to be done and any potential lawsuits associated with the crash, according to Mayor Al Broad.
“There are lots of questions about what’s going on with them and I’m not in a position to answer them,” he says. “We’re meeting with CP to clear up some of the questions in the air.”
Meantime, the crash and the implications of closing rural roads because of dangerous rail crossings have caught the attention of the National Farmers Union. At its annual conference, its annual conference the NFU asked the Minister of Transport to order railroads to maintain the rail lines to a higher standard including cutting back the foliage from trees up to 750 meters from the track.
It was a suggestion which came from Dawn-Euphemia resident Emery Huszka who lives near the track and knew DeMaiter since he was a young boy.
Huszka isn’t sure if visibility was part of the problem in the death of his friend. “I think visibility on those railroads has been a problem, there have been a couple of near misses,” he told The Independent. “In Mike ‘s case I don’t know whether that made the difference or not.”
But he says it is clear fixing awkward rural crossings are a low priority for companies like CP and CN. “Railroads do not want to see people hurt…but there are economies of scale and more important projects I’m sure get more attention.”
Aside from the barriers on the roads and the crossing guard, Huszka says there are signs CP is trying to improve safety along the stretch of line which dissects the edge of Lambton County. “I hear train horns going off all day long – the conductors are religiously using their horns and the trains are going through at a modest pace. I don’t know if there has been a directive from the company but it appears CP is making a conscious effort.”
Both Huszka and Sloan say the roads should remain open but something has to be done to improve safety. Wigwams are often seen as a costly option for rural areas. Huszka says rerouting roads as Chatham-Kent has done near Thamesville may be the best alternative.
“They consumed three acres of land and from start to finish the work would likely be four weeks.”
And he says as the new Liberal government starts discussing infrastructure projects such as high-speed rail, the need to make the crossings on rural roads will become more pressing.