Company willing to spend $350K on a fix
CP Rail says it is willing to spend $350,000 to fix three railway crossings in Dawn-Euphemia which Transport Canada has been concerned about since 2013.
And the company says Dawn-Euphemia can either close two roads or contribute $350,000 to help solve the problem.
Under federal transporation rules, both the rail company and the municipality are responsible for rail way crossings. And in this case, Transport Canada had voiced concerns as early as 2013 about the danger of angled crossings – identifying the three Dawn-Euphemia crossings as problems.
The issue came to a head after a Newbury area man was killed on Euphemia Line.
Last month, 78 year old Michil DeMaiter was trying to cross the CP Rail line at the edge of Lambton County. The rail line runs at a 45-degree angle to the crossing. The southbound train struck his stake truck which he was using to haul grain from his fields to his farm. DeMaiter was killed instantly.
Transport Canada closed the Euphemia Line crossing as well as one on Bilton Road which is similar. CP Rail hired a crossing guard to help traffic get across the Fansher Road – the only one of the three roads with houses on it.
Tom Twigge, director of project East for CP, and Jennifer Benedict, CP’s manager of public works East, came to Dawn-Euphemia Council Monday to talk about the crossings and what should be done.
Benedict says CP and Dawn-Euphemia have been talking about the three crossing since at least 2013 when Transport Canada first voiced concerns about angled crossings. By later that year, CP and Dawn-Euphemia Council agreed something needed to be done and the road would be realigned. By August 2013, CP had applied for a grant to improve the crossing.
Dawn-Euphemia Public Works Manager Paul Dalton says CP officials came down later to widen the road “within the width of the road allowance” to allow drivers, particularly those with transports and farm equipment, to angle themselves to get a better view of the crossing.
“At the time it was adequate,” he tells The Independent “until Transport Canada came back about a year later and felt it wasn’t adequate.”
Dalton says CP also installed delineating lines “to force traffic to cross at those angles.”
Benedict says that fix and another which the township had agreed to as early as August 2015 now do not satisfy Transport Canada’s concerns.
“If we do this work now, in a few years we may have to go back and do it again,” she told council. “Based on the new requirements, this is not enough. There is a requirement for signals at some crossings.”
Benedict gave Dawn-Euphemia two options. CP is willing, she says, to add crossings with lights and arms at one of the crossing for a cost of $350,000. It would be up to the township to then close two roads to eliminate the other crossings. Or Benedict says the township could close one road and put up $350,000 of its own to have another crossing signalized.
Dawn-Euphemia Mayor Al Broad says it’s a difficult choice that could present other dangers. “To close Euphemia Line would create a huge safety risk on Highway 79,” he says noting farm vehicles use the road instead of 79 since it is a main thoroughfare for transports. “To me, it’s not even an option.”
And Broad says closing any road which has been in use for over a century would not be done without complaints.
“For us to walk in there and just start closing them we need some discussion,” he says.
And Broad also expressed concern about the municipality paying up to $350,000 to solve the problem. “$350,000 is a 20 per cent increase in our taxes in one year,” he says. “It is frustrating that everyone across Canada benefits from it (the rail line) and it is only a few municipalities paying for the crossings.
“I know that you folks are the bearers of the bad news, but you’re also part of a multi-nation with record profits in the third quarter.”
Benedict says there are some federal grants available to help municipalities pay for safer crossings and she said CP would be willing to work with the township to find a better solution. But she says something needs to happen soon. Benedict says Transport Canada is closely monitoring the situation and wants a solution.
“They’ve said ‘Enough is enough’ Transport Canada wants to know what your doing and they want the timelines…with the work done by the end of year.”
She added CP wanted to “come up with a plan that makes everyone happy…the reality is we have the responsibility to make these crossings safe.”
And she says Transport Canada can fine both CP and the municipality if they don’t.
But Twigge says that’s not the sole reason for repairing the crossing. “Our goal above anything else is safety,” he says adding CP had been painted in the media as the big multi-national company only interested in money. “We’re trying to keep your constituents safe and our people safe,” he says adding “Accidents cost us a huge amount of money” and he would like to reduce the risk of accidents as much as possible.
“We’ve spent billions of dollars trying to fix crossings,” Twigge says adding anytime there is an accident it is “bad for our reputation.”
Township council has sent a counter proposal to CP saying it will close Bilton Line and pay for half of the cost of crossing arms and lights at Euphemia Line while CP pays the rest and the entire shot for Fansher Road’s signalization.
Meantime, both Bilton Line and Euphemia Line remain closed. The crossing guard, which CP says cost them $2,000 a day, is now gone after the municipality placed signs warning trucks and farm machinery about the sightlines.
Benedict says the crossing guard may return. She received an email Monday from Transport Canada suggesting the signs may not be enough to protect drivers and the crossing guard may have to return.