Kent considering $390K train crossing upgrade

Harrison Highlands residents had complained about the noisy crossing last year

Residents in Harrison Highlands might get the peace and quiet they’ve been hoping for, if they’re willing to help subsidize the cost of a new train crossing.

In Kent council Monday (Feb. 25), council members voted to begin work on a grant that will help pay for a $390,000 replacement train crossing at Kilby Road and Dyke Road.

District staff first began looking at the crossing after residents in the Harrison Highlands development on Mount Woodside submitted a petition against the train noise last year. The crossing, which intersects a private road, requires the train to whistle as it approaches to warn local traffic.

A safety assessment completed by a consultant concluded that the only feasible option for stopping the train’s whistles would be to install a new warning system for the crossing. (Other options included closing the road, which wasn’t possible because it provided access to the dyke and private homes, reclassifying it as a private crossing and building a grade to separate the road and the crossing.)

The new crossing, although quieter than the train whistle, will not be without noise as it includes bells and flashing lights to warn drivers of oncoming trains.

This system, which would have an annual maintenance cost of around $7,000, is eligible for a Transport Canada grant. If the grant application was successful, the district would be left with a $78,000 bill.

“Staff can work with property owners on a local service area program to help cover the remaining balance,” Mick Thiessen, director of engineering services, said during council.

Divided among the current property owners at Harrison Highlands, each homeowner would pay around $270 a year for five years to install the new crossing. The maintenance costs would be covered by the district’s general revenue.

Council had to consider whether to apply for the grant first, then gauge interest in a local area service program, or whether they should ask residents first.

“It’s one of these things, it’s the chicken or the egg,” CAO Wallace Mah said.

Councillor Stan Watchorn noted that the projected costs for residents is based on the current number of homes in Harrison Highlands.

“As phase two opens up, there would be roughly double the number of residents,” he said, adding that applying for the grant first, then bringing it up to the residents would be a better use of time.

Whether other residents would be part of the local service area is still under discussion. Councillor Kirsten Schwichtenberg questioned whether the property owners who live next to the current crossing would have to pay for the installation.

Watchorn, who moved to have council apply for the grant first, said that should be decided after discussion with residents if the grant was successful.

“My wife said to me, we knew the trains were there when we moved in,” he said. “They toot. We get used to them. Not everybody has that same mindset.”

Councillor Duane Post agreed that current property owners next to the train crossing should be talked to, although he felt the grant application should come after those discussions.

“There’s people that have lived there for a long long time who just go to sleep because the train’s going by and they don’t even here it,” he said. “I think that discussion needs to happen before that grant application is even applied for.”

Despite Post’s concerns, which councillor Susan Spaeti also voiced because of possible wasted staff time, council voted in favour of moving forward with the grant application for the new train crossing.

Residents in the surrounding Mount Woodside area will be receiving a letter about council’s decision and the next steps.

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