Editorial — Ottawa over-reaction

Directive on signals shows how challenging it is to get Ottawa to understand Langley rail crossing issues.

An over-reaction by Transport Canada highlights how difficult it is for Langley citizens to get the federal government to understand the impact of train traffic on the urban core of this community.

The agency decreed April 7 that all trains needed to slow down to 10 miles per hour when crossing Fraser Highway. It did so because of  regulations stating that traffic signals  located close to a rail level crossing must be co-ordinated, so that traffic isn’t unnecessarily slowed by a train.

There is no doubt that traffic backs up on Production Way when a train passes, and if the lights were co-ordinated with the rail crossing, traffic on Production could keep moving. The City and railway are now working to do just that.

However, the way the agency works is both baffling and troubling. It will cost almost $350,000 to co-ordinate the rail crossing with the traffic signals. Railways and local governments usually get a grant to cover most of these costs.

The City and railway had applied for this grant about a year ago, but it has been held up because of departmental reorganization in Ottawa. However, this reorganization didn’t stop Transport Canada from issuing a “notice of insufficient action” to the City in February, and the slow order for trains in April.

The only way Transport Canada would agree to lift the slow order was if the City would turn the traffic signal into a “flashing green” on Fraser Highway, and a “flashing red” on Production. This of course changes traffic patterns and, as predicted by many, caused at least four crashes last week.

Transport Canada has now, under pressure, backed down to the degree that the light has gone back to normal operations, pending a meeting between the City, railway and the transport agency.

It would have been ridiculous to have trains move that slowly in Langley for months. The traffic congestion would be far worse than it is today.

Can’t Ottawa understand that train traffic in Langley is a serious problem? It’s a key reason the federal government agreed to the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor program, which is pumping almost $400 million into a variety of projects along the corridor — including several in Langley.

It’s high time senior Transport Canada officials come here and see for themselves the extent of the problem. Issuing orders from the comfort of their Ottawa offices doesn’t cut it.