Town begins talks with CN over rail issues

Town council met with representatives from Canadian National railways last night to learn what CN has done regarding trespassing and delays at crossings in Fort Frances, and begin a dialogue to address any concerns.
CN senior engineer Randy Winkler pointed out that besides some drainage issues, the two key areas that need to be addressed are waiting times at the McIrvine Road crossing and trespassing, particularly at Victoria Avenue and Smith Street.
CN spokesperson Jim Feeny noted CN has made improvements to the crossing warning system in order to improve the length of time vehicles are delayed at this crossing.
The improvement to the crossing warning system will result in a more consistent warning timer and increase speed of the trains over the crossing, which will result in reducing the length of time the crossing is obstructed by train movements.
Coun. Struchan Gilson noted he timed a train at the crossing yesterday morning, and noticed it only took two minutes to pass.
Mayor Dan Onichuk noted the number of complaints he’s received regarding the crossing has dipped recently, and Doug Brown, manager of Operations and Facilities, said he’s actually heard positive feedback since the upgrades.
Mayor Onichuk asked to what extent CN would be involved if, for instance, a vehicular overpass were constructed at the McIrvine Road crossing. Feeny said CN would be involved in “the technical part of it” and would contribute up to 15 percent of the cost.
Ideally, the town would then split the remaining 85 percent of the total cost with the provincial and federal government, added Feeny.
But when Mayor Onichuk asked if similar help was available for constructing a pedestrian overpass or underpass, Feeny noted that such structures are uncommon, and speculated that the cost of such a project wouldn’t be shared by CN, but would be completely paid for by the municipality.
Mayor Onichuk stressed this is something that must be addressed in the future, as pedestrians crossing the tracks is a community safety issue.
And with so few crossings, trespassing does, and will continue to, happen if there’s no proper overpass/underpass to utilize for north/south pedestrian traffic.
Also at last night’s meeting, council:
•approved a report from the Community Services Executive Committee featuring recommendations stemming from the recreation survey conducted last fall. See tomorrow’s Times for more details;
•passed a bylaw to amend a zoning bylaw for property at 205 Third St. East. This is to change it from “C2-General Commercial Zone” to “R3 Residential Type 3”;
•passed a bylaw to authorize the entering into of certain lease renewal agreements at the Fort Frances Municipal Airport;
•passed a break-open ticket licence application from Rainycrest Auxiliary at the 364 Food Store from June 1, 2005-Nov. 30, 2005; and
•passed a bylaw to authorize the execution of an agreement for airport capital funding under the ACAP design and construction of a sand shed at the Fort Frances Municipal Airport.