Langley Times file photo

Langley Times file photo

Township on the hook for $6 million in railway crossing safety improvements

Upgrades at 29 public crossings must be completed by 2021 under new Transport Canada regulations

Public railway crossings in the Township of Langley will receive $6 million in safety improvements over the next few years.

The upgrades are required at all 29 public crossings under Transport Canada’s new grade crossings regulations, and must be completed by November, 2021.

The work includes approximately $2.2 million to meet the minimum requirement for whistle cessation at five crossings and an additional $1 million to address future safety concerns and whistle cessation at two other crossings, according to a Township staff report.

Township staff will be looking at grants to potentially cover some of the costs. The railway companies are also involved, and have to make their own improvements by the 2021 deadline.

The required work varies at each crossing from vegetation clearing, pavement marking and signage improvements, to crossing gate arm descent times and warning time adjustments, and Flashing Lights and Bells (FLB) and gates installation.

Thirteen of the 29 railway crossings need to be upgraded with FLB or FLB with gates, and at 14 crossings the gate arm descent time and warning times will be reviewed and adjusted.

The assessment of each crossing was completed by consultant Hatch Mott MacDonald.

Coun. Kim Richter asked for clarification on why the Township is responsible for paying $6 million.

“I’m just a little unclear on the funding on this,” she said. “So the federal government has said these upgrades have to be done by 2021, but have they downloaded the costs of these upgrades to municipalities?”

“Your worship, it’s not a question of downloading, it’s actually being mandated as something that the municipalities have to undertake because of the fact that we are the owners of the assets,” replied Ramin Seifi, Township manager of engineering and community development.

“But to work with the railway companies and seek contributions from them whenever possible and also the federal government has provided, or will be providing, grant opportunities throughout the country.”

“Is there anyway we can lobby the federal government?” Richter asked. “I know there’s been talk in the past of putting a container tax on, in order to finance some of this stuff. I just think it’s really unfair that these improvements are being funded on the back of property owners. We don’t get anything out of it. We’re just spending money on it.”

Coun. David Davis said he’s concerned with how the consultant report was conducted, and asked if there was specific criteria that had to be checked off, or if it was done by interpretation.

“If it’s in his interpretation, boy, we could be spending money or saving a lot of money, one or the other,” he said.

Paul Cordeiro, Township manager for transportation engineering, noted that the consultant did the study on all 29 public crossings in the Township, but there are also numerous private crossings that are the responsibility of the private owner and the railway companies.

“In terms of looking at the different requirements, the consultant followed what the requirements are in the new grade crossing standards and the grade crossing regulations,” Cordeiro said.

“So every crossing could be a little bit different, depending upon the angle, the width of the road, the type of traffic, the adjacent land use, and the type of control that’s actually at the crossing right now.”

Both Davis and Coun. Charlie Fox commented that if the Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum projects go through — particularly the work planned on Glover Road — some of these crossings that require upgrades may no longer exist.

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“So we’re going to spend $6 million in the next very short while to upgrade these. Is there redundancy in what this Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum is expecting us to do or expecting to be done in the next X-number of years?” Fox asked.

Mayor Jack Froese replied that if Gateway projects do go ahead, it would impact only two or three of the rail crossings.