Friday, November 28, 2014

Third CN track irks residents

Several local residents are highly-concerned about a new set of tracks CN plans to build near their homes.
Dave Poirier, who lives at the end of Christie Avenue North, said was notified by CN on July 18 that it will be putting in a third rail line on the north side of the tracks—parallel to his and several other neighbours’ properties.

But the close proximity of this new set of tracks poses a serious safety risk, he noted.
The distance from his back yard to the closest existing track is only 30 feet now, said Poirier. Once the new rails are put in, that distance is going to be less than 15 feet.
“It’s too close. It’s way too close,” he stressed.
“It’s a huge safety concern,” agreed Melanie Allen, who lives with her husband, Stewart, and nine-year-old son, Marcus, at the end of Armit Avenue North.
Allen admitted she was “absolutely shocked” when she heard of the plans for the new track.
“I couldn’t imagine, with the track being as close as it is, it was even possible to put another track in,” she remarked.
“It’s unbelievable.”
Allen’s son has a treehouse on the edge of their property. If a train derailed—even if the cars simply fell over and did not jackknife, it would come crashing into her yard, where her son could be playing on his swing set or in his treehouse.
Poirier said from his backyard, he’ll sometimes see double-decker trains (i.e., two cars high).
Adding together the height of the berm the track sits on, the height of the car from the ground, and the height of the double-decker car, he estimated some trains are as high as 30 feet high.
“You try and imagine another whole train that much closer,” he said. “It literally takes up the entire horizon.
“It would be like a cruise ship going down one of the streets in town.”
At that size and at such a close distance, Poirier said it’s easy to see that if a car derailed, it would fall right onto any one of the properties located next to the tracks.
Allen noted a train derailed several years ago on the property of Lee and Aimee Millet, who live across the street from Poirier.
“One of the knuckles broke loose from the train and landed next to their grandchildren’s swing set,” she recalled.
“Luckily, they were not outside at that time.”
Allen feels “it is not a matter of if a derailment will happen, but when” if the new set of rails is put in.
“Where will our children be when the next one happens?” she wondered.
“The bed our nine-year old son sleeps in would be roughly 46 feet from the proposed track, the treehouse he plays in would be 20 feet away, and our dining room 25 feet.”
On top of concerns about derailments, more rails means more trains, which, in turn, means more noise and diesel fumes from idling trains that Allen and her neighbours will have to endure.
Both Allen and Poirier said they aren’t complaining about the tracks which already are in place—just the proposed set that will bring trains too close to their homes.
“When we purchased this house, when all of us bought houses here, we knew we were buying houses by the tracks and all that goes with it,” said Allen.
“But this I just feel completely compromises the safety of all of us,” she stressed.
“It’s not that any of us didn’t realize we were buying next to the railroad tracks,” echoed Poirier.
“We bought there because it was a cheaper alternative; to maybe have a little bit bigger yard, a little bit bigger house, and to not have a neighbour on the other side of you,” he explained.
“It was a bargain to do that.
“We didn’t expect CN to start throwing in an extra set of railroad tracks,” Poirier added.
“I think somebody should be able to say, ‘No.’”
Poirier felt CN should not be able to do whatever it wants without consulting the affected homeowners, adding the only notice he and his neighbours got was a doorstep visit from CN employees July 18—and some people weren’t even home that day.
“We weren’t given any proper notice,” Allen noted. “They came by last week and we were away on vacation.
“They went door-to-door and nobody’s even phoned us since,” she added.
“My dad was here working in the house and spoke to them, but I’ve not heard from any [CN] representative.”
Poirier, Allen, and the Millets want to do everything they possibly can to get CN to stop with their plans.
Besides contacting media, they also have contacted local MP John Rafferty, who has pledged to bring the matter to the attention of federal Transportation minister Lisa Raitt.
A CN spokeswoman said the third set of tracks is an expansion of its current track.
“It will be used as an area where we will build trains,” Lindsay Fedchyshyn, regional manager, CN Public and Government Affairs, said in an e-mail to the Times.
“Movements on this section of track will be operating at low speeds,” she added.
Fedchyshyn said CN will review the concerns expressed by the residents.
“CN remains committed to running a safe and efficient operation in the communities through which we operate,” she pledged.
“This work is part of CN’s $2.2-billion 2014 network-wide capital investment program, designed to improve the productivity and fluidity of our network for rail freight service that meets our customers’ needs,” Fedchyshyn added.

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