People wait to cross the train tracks at the Marine Park crossing. This level crossing would be eliminated if the Ross Street underpass goes ahead. (File photo)

Salmon Arm facing $1 million-plus bill for railway crossing upgrades

Ross Street underpass project would eliminate need for improvements at Marine Park and Narcisse

The City of Salmon Arm is facing a bill of about $1 million for needed railway grade crossing upgrades. That is, unless the city proceeds with the Ross Street underpass project, estimated at $10.5 million, which would make the upgrades unnecessary.

This information is part of a report to council by city engineering and public works director Rob Niewenhuizen regarding work being done to meet Transport Canada Grade Crossing Regulations introduced in 2014.

Niewenhuizen explains in his report that crossings need to be in compliance by 2021, with work to identify and address deficiencies being done over three stages.

The city recently had Associated Engineering Ltd. complete part of phase 2, assessing the city’s grade crossings at Canoe and Canoe Beach, Captains Cove Marina, Marine Park Drive and Narcisse Street, identifying deficiencies at each and providing recommendations for mitigation.

Niewenhuizen said the deficiencies identified are mostly minor (signage, line markings, pavement patching),and are estimated to cost $37,000. However, two major upgrades were identified for the Narcisse and Marine Park Drive crossings.

“At both locations, longer, southbound vehicles such as transport trucks or vehicles with boat trailers encroach onto the railway while stopping behind the stop bar. The recommended remediation work for each intersection is full signalization…,” states the report.

The cost for signalization at each intersection is estimated to be a minimum of $500,000 per location.

“One of the other major issues is that the Transport Canada Regulations require these improvements be done by 2021,” Niewenhuizen reiterated to council.

However, the report also states the signalization upgrades won’t be necessary if the underpass gets built.

“If the Ross Street underpass were to be constructed, that would eliminate the Marine Park crossing, and all the commercial or vehicles with trailers can be directed through the underpass, as opposed to the Narcisse crossing,” said Niewenhuizen.

City residents will have an opportunity to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the underpass in a referendum this fall. City administrator Carl Bannister has stated 60 per cent of the estimated $10.5 million project cost would be covered by grants, reserves and development cost charges. Approximately $4.3 million would be covered directly by municipal taxpayers through a long-term borrowing bylaw.

Asked to clarify who owns the crossings, Niewenhuizen said the city leases the land and is responsible for all maintenance costs.

“We have a lease with CP Rail for the use of that crossing which we pay annually, and we also pay an additional cost for any servicing that’s required and that’s all done by the rail company,” said Niewenhuizen.

Asked what would happen if the city didn’t want to spend the $1 million, Niewenhuizen said Transport Canada could potentially close down Marine Park Drive and Narcisse.

“Transport Canada could, for safety reasons, close that,” said Niewenhuizen. “And we were very close to that before we initiated the other improvements. That would mean potentially both crossings could be closed.”

Niewenhuizen said council can expect to see the upgrades among future budget items.


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