While the Civic Works Committee is supporting a study on the safety of the city’s railway pedestrian crossings, one councillor wants his colleagues to put money on the table as soon as possible.
During the civic works meeting on Monday (Feb. 25), members voted to not only accept the Railway Pedestrian Crossing Safety report, but also authorize staff to prepare a study to determine appropriate, pedestrian-focused solutions at railway crossings.
In addition to the staff recommendations, the committee also supported Ward 4 Councillor Stephen Orser’s suggestion the city investigate the cost of repealing the existing whistle cessation bylaw. That bylaw, which was created in 1963, eliminates the use of whistling in place of other types of warning systems.
“Kids don’t respect trains and their power and I know that from personal experience,” Orser said. “I know one thing, they respect a loud noise and they get out of the way.”
John Braam, managing director environmental and engineering services said the request to study the safety issue would allow staff to put individuals crossings “in context from a relative risk perspective.” Braam suggested the assessment could be completed in two or three months while also tying in with the city’s’ Transportation Master Plan.
Ward 2 Councillor Bill Armstrong, who isn’t a member of the Civic Works Committee, said the city should do what it can “to put every safety mechanism in place.” Armstrong is calling for crossing arms, and perhaps bars or fencing, to be put in place at all city railway crossings.
Mayor Joe Fontana said he was aware it could cost approximately $210,000 to improve the crossing at Third Street alone and as much as $10 million to do the same across the city. The crossing at Third Street, north of Dundas Street, was the site of a Dec. 1, 2012 fatal accident involving a young pedestrian.
“In a municipality this size, we really shouldn’t have crossings without arms. The standards today aren’t adequate,” Armstrong said. “Obviously $10 million is a lot of money, our share being $2.5 million. But what we should do is put aside some money to start a process of upgrading these particular sites where there is this risk.”
Fontana said the $210,000 price tag “sounds like an incredibly large amount of money” and suggested the city start looking at other ways of increasing pedestrian safety in the meantime.
The mayor said he had no doubt “a more substantive education piece has to be put in place” along with increased signage and a look at repealing the whistle cessation bylaw.
“Is it education? Is it putting up these extra barriers? Is it more signage? Is it allowing for whistle blowing so people are more aware, kids are more aware, that trains are approaching?” Fontana said. “There are a myriad of possibilities to look at.”
Armstrong said he was “disappointed” the committee wasn’t seemingly inclined to move forward quickly with the funding necessary to more quickly upgrade the city’s railway crossings.
Saying the city needs to “send a clear message to the public” that pedestrian safety is a priority, Armstrong said council could put aside $50,000 in this year’s budget to work towards replacing the Third Street crossing as soon as possible.
“To do something is better than nothing. We should be moving ahead with a plan, and a commitment,” Armstrong said. “We need to get these arms going. We need to make this commitment now. This is an important issue; people are dying.”
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