After years of deliberations with Canadian Pacific (CP) and Transport Canada, the City of Fernie has been approved for the installation of gate arms at the 13th Street crossing.
“We are extremely grateful to Transport Canada and CP rail for agreeing that now is the time [to install these gate arms],” Mayor Mary Giuliano said. “I can’t wait until they get that promise in motion.”
The projects price tag is just over $30,000, 25 per cent of which the city will be responsible for paying, Director of Operational Services Dave Cockwell said.
The remainder of the funds will come from CP (25 per cent) and Transport Canada (50 per cent).
Cockwell noted that the installation of the gate arms is projected to commence at the end of June or the beginning of August.
Concerns over the lack of gate arms at the 13th Street crossing were brought forward by council several years ago, according to Giuliano.
With Isabella Dicken Elementary School (IDES), New Horizons Village and the Ridgemont neighbourhood in close proximity to the crossing, council began lobbying for gate arms, as they believed the lack of gate arms was a major safety concern.
“We have a lot of children that come across there to go to school so that’s always been a concern for councils,” Giuliano said, adding, “[and] it wasn’t a long time ago that we actually had an accident where a young man in his truck slid into the railroad tracks.”
Despite these concerns, Transport Canada asserted that specific guidelines had to be met before the project could be considered, including a railway design speed of more than 50 mph.
During a July council meeting, an email response from Transport Canada denying the gate arms was highlighted.
The city, however, remained vigilant in their request.
Giuliano said she personally began taking photos of the area around the 13th Street crossing, which included photos of IDES.
“I sent all of those photos to them (CP) to show them that this is indeed a crossing that needs some attention,” she added.
It was at that time that CP requested a vehicle count from the city, Giuliano said.
The city conducted a vehicle count, but because B.C. schools were on strike during the time of the count, traffic numbers were significantly lower than typical and the city’s request for gate arms was again denied.
“We didn’t have the same numbers of vehicles going by,” noted Giuiliano, who added that despite this, they continued to lobby for arms, and eventually were approved for the installation.