Sparwood considers building a railway crossing

With increased pedestrian traffic near Sparwood’s railway tracks, the District is looking at installing a railway crossing.

With increased pedestrian traffic near Sparwood’s railway tracks, the District is looking at installing a railway crossing.

Following the construction of the Iron Rails, Elk River Crossing, and the Link Trail, greater access to the trails beside the river has resulted in more residents and visitors to town walking along the railway area.

Public safety is becoming an issue, as there are a number of unauthorized crossings that are being used to cross the tracks. The District has recently discussed two options – a public crossing near the Sparwood Station, or a private pedestrian-only crossing.

“The costs are substantial and the biggest problem right now is the pedestrian traffic, that’s going to get worse, and that’s a big safety concern right now,” explained Danny Dwyer, Director of Engineering. “The private [pedestrian] crossing is maintained where we still have access to cross the railway for municipal purposes, and that does not have to be a lit and signaled crossing. A public crossing, because there are two tracks, is going to require substantial work.”

Costs for both options have yet to be determined, however the development of a public vehicle crossing is estimated at roughly $500,000, not including road development, operations, and maintenance. A vehicle crossing would also require a whistle to be sounded for every train that utilizes it.

Although a private pedestrian-only crossing could be built at a lesser cost, Dwyer felt that a vehicle crossing could grant the public access to a portion of land beside the river that could potentially be used for recreational purposes.

Councillor Ron Saad agreed it was an option worth pursuing. “There is a lot of land over there and it could be utilized, and a private crossing would never have that,” he commented. “With a public crossing, at least we have the opportunity to utilize the land. I think before we make the decision we should sit down and really take a good look and see if we could utilize it as a picnic area, or something to do with Coal Miner Days, anything really.”

District staff was directed by council to investigate locations and costs for both methods of safely crossing the railway tracks in the District. The issue will be brought back at a future council meeting.