Alberton council opts to improve rail crossings

Alberton council voted last Wednesday night to improve rail crossings at Watson Road and Station Road in order to keep them open for public use.
At last month’s meeting, council heard from CN Public Works officer Randy Domstad, who said there were safety issues at both of those crossings.
One concern was the presence of trees, which makes it difficult to see an approaching train until a vehicle is nearly on the tracks.
There are no warning lights or arms at either crossing.
Domstad said he was prepared to close both crossings to traffic if safety measures were not improved. But the cost of installing lights at either one would cost anywhere from $150,000-$450,000.
Councillors suggested various other options for keeping the crossings open, including clearing the lines of sight, reducing speed limits, installing signage, building up the approaches to the crossings, and—at the Station Road one—limiting traffic to smaller vehicles like snowmachines.
“As far as I’m concerned, they’re roads to nowhere,” said Coun. Doug Mitchell. “To me, it’s a waste of taxpayer dollars to put anything into either of those crossings.”
“Ten years from now, there may be development [on Watson Road] and the municipality may want the crossing back,” noted Coun. Louis Collier.
“If we let it go and want it back 10 years from now, and minimum safety requirements call for arms and lights, we’d have to pay for them,” Coun. Mike Ford warned.
“I do see Doug’s point, but down the road are we cutting our nose off to spite our face?” he added, noting if the land on Watson Road were ever to dry up, it could be a suitable site for harvesting peat.
“It’s going to hurt to have to spend money on a crossing in the middle of nowhere, but do we want to end that avenue altogether?” Coun. Ford asked.
“It’s not that we’re repairing that crossing for use. We’re preserving it. Who are we to thwart potential economic development?”
“There’s nothing back there and there never will be,” countered Coun. Mitchell.
If the Watson Road crossing were to close, people who own the land beyond the crossing no longer would have access to their property.
“I’d like to further investigate if [the landowner] would be willing to help bring it up to standard,” Coun. Ford said.
CN had asked that Alberton council have a plan in place by Nov. 1 at the latest.
Council decided to ask the local snowmobile club to help with clearing the sight lines at the Station Road crossing, and to temporarily close the crossing at Watson Road to improve the approaches.
It also agreed to put up signage immediately at both crossings.
Also at last Wednesday night’s regular meeting, Alberton council discussed ways of preventing vandalism to the local rink shack. The garage doors to the shack have been damaged twice in recent months.
Councillors considered moving the shack to a more visible location, or installing surveillance cameras.
Coun. Ford noted cameras would be very expensive—and likely not very effective.
“The winter months is when the damage is done,” he noted. “It’s dark, so you’d need a higher resolution camera. And people’s features are covered up with toques and scarves.”
In other business, Alberton council:
•increased the out-of-town mileage allowance for municipal employees from $.43/km to $.45/km due to a recent dramatic rise in fuel costs;
•heard a report from Couns. Collier and Mitchell regarding a recent conference on municipal policy regarding fire departments; and
•heard a report from S/Sgt. Steve Shouldice, acting detachment commander for the OPP in Rainy River District, on recent developments with the local police force.
The next regular meeting of Alberton council is slated for Wednesday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. at the municipal office.

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