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A recent article in the Beacon Star noted that at a recent meeting the Township of Seguin Council discussed the need for improved safety equipment at one of the two rail crossings on James Bay Junction Road. The safety concern was raised by CN Railway and Transport Canada.

Transport Canada officer Jeffery Young noted that the nature of the crossing, the relative lack of visibility and the speed at which vehicles approached the crossing could lead to an accident, particularly for drivers unfamiliar with the crossing. The recommendation was that rail crossing gates and lights be installed at a cost of about $250,000. Seguin would be responsible for some $31,000 of that cost.

Mayor Conn’s response was to request staff to investigate whether lowering the speed limit in the area of the crossing was a viable solution.

Seguin Mayor Conn and Council have an issue, and it will be interesting to see what they decide. Because the issue was brought to their attention by CN and Transport Canada they cannot plausibly claim they were unaware that a safety issue exists.

The suggestion that the speed limit be lowered is a reasonable one. And it really does offer a solution that should protect the Seguin Town Council from legal liability and assuage personal guilt if an accident were ever to occur at the rail crossing. It should also impose no ongoing hardship on local residents and visitors as they will most likely just ignore the speed limit reduction. Who is gong to monitor and enforce a speed limit reduction for a 200 meter stretch of rural road?

The bigger problem for Sequin staff and Council is that there are eight or so other rail crossings within a 5 kilometer radius of the James Bay Junction crossing. How are they supposed to deal with these crossings? More gates and lights? More reduced speed signs? Does putting gates up at one crossing imply the same should be done for the others. The cost of one crossing is manageable, but eight or more represents a real burden if taxes are to be kept low.

As more, longer and heavier trains pass through the West Parry Sound District a proactive approach to minimizing their impact on the environment and our safety and health becomes increasingly important. These are not the same trains that were running through our neighbourhoods 10, 20 or 50 years ago, and what worked back then really won’t work now.