The City of White Rock will build a pedestrian railway overpass and upgrade four pedestrian railway crossings with the help of a $2.3 million grant from Transport Canada.
As of Peace Arch News press time Tuesday, the city had yet to make a public announcement of the federal contribution, but Coun. Grant Meyer mentioned the project to PAN at a rail-safety event near the White Rock pier Friday morning.
Meyer said the upgrades will take place at three railway crossings on East Beach (at Finlay Street, Ash Street and Balsam Street) and at the boat launch near Bay Street on West Beach.
As part of the upgrade, the crossings will be fitted with bells and flashing lights, Meyer said.
“We’re allowed to apply for a lower decibel bell, quite a bit lower, because most of the crossings don’t have vehicles at them,” he said.
The pedestrian overpass will be built five blocks west of the promenade, at Coldicutt Park, an area of concern for Transport Canada, Meyer noted.
“The stairs that come down at Coldicutt Park are quite busy and quite well-used and that was a concern for them because it’s not an actual crossing,” Meyer said. “Once you get to the western end of the promenade, people just keep walking and they walk along the tracks. They walk along the beach as well, but especially when it’s high tide they walk along the tracks.”
The cumulative cost of the project is approximately $5.8 million. The city will contribute $2.1 million, BNSF will contribute $1.3 million and Transport Canada will contribute $2.3 million.
The lion’s share of the city’s contribution will be allocated to the overpass, which accounts for approximately $1.7 million. BNSF will not contribute to the overpass; Transport Canada will pay for $500,000 of it.
A Transport Canada railway-safety inspector sent White Rock CAO Dan Bottrill a letter on June 6, 2014 after two inspections in that year. The letter noted that the Coldicutt crossing has no warning devices, and access for pedestrians is facilitated from the upper city levels by a staircase.
The unlawful crossing was cited as a route to and from the White Rock promenade.
“There were three major areas flagged for safety concerns by Transport Canada after the unfortunate incident when a lady was struck and killed a few years ago,” Meyer said Friday.
Meyer was referring to a jogger who was killed by a passenger train while crossing the tracks at the pedestrian crossing nearest Semiahmoo Park in July 2013.
BNSF, CN Police and White Rock RCMP were at the White Rock pier Friday morning promoting rail safety.
CN Police Const. Jordan Kyte and Sgt. Andrew Spanos agreed the waterfront is a high-risk area due to the foot traffic, but said they consider all railways as high risk.
The officers, with support from RCMP Const. Chantal Sears and members from BNSF, educated passersby and stressed the importance of using designated pedestrian crossings.
Spanos stressed that walking on the tracks, or even crossing over not at a designated crossing, is considered trespassing.