WHITE ROCK — Suggestions that White Rock’s waterfront railway tracks be fenced in following the death of a jogger earlier this year aren’t sitting well with mayor Wayne Baldwin.
The suggestions come as part of a safety review ordered by Transport Canada following the death of jogger Anita Lewis, who was hit by a train while trying to cross the tracks in July. The review aims to find measures to avoid such incidents from happening again, but the suggestions of
fencing and adding more safety-arm crossings isn’t winning any favour from the city’s mayor.
“That would be an understatement – it would be bad in many respects,” said Baldwin, noting first and foremost that fencing the tracks in would be a safety concern in its own right. “I don’t know what it is, but there seems to be a fatal attraction that some people have with railway tracks
and if you fence in the tracks and people decide to walk on them and a train comes along, there’s no way out and then they’re trapped. Then, if you put more holes in the fence for people to escape, you’ve defeated the purpose of the fence.”
On top of the safety concern of possibly fencing in the track, Baldwin noted that a fence would diminish the beauty of the waterfront and cost the city a lot of money.
Another suggestion – increasing the amount of crossing arms and flashing lights – would be another waste of money, said Baldwin, noting that the arms also don’t stop people from crossing the tracks, even when down.
“They cost a quarter of a million (dollars) each and are we stopping people from crossing the tracks? The answer is ‘no,’” he said. “We see it all the time at the Martin Street crossing where the pier is. The lights will be flashing and the arms will be down and people still walk across.”
Looking at the number of people who cross the tracks each year and the number of incidents they’ve had, Baldwin feels the measures being suggested are a big overreaction.
“Given all the people crossing the tracks and all the trains that we’ve got, we’ve had one accident like this,” he said. “The percentage is infinitesimal.”
Fellow council members Alan Campbell and Grant Meyer are also on board with Baldwin, saying suggestions of a fence along the front would be detrimental to the waterfront’s beauty.
“Our city would be devastated with those changes,” said Campbell. “This was a tragic accident and that’s what it was, tragic.”
Added Meyer, “There would be a riot in this city and down in the peninsula. Accidents happen once in while but there’s no way I would go silently into the night if this was attempted.”
The review is due to be completed by Oct. 31, and will consider input by the City of White Rock, railway operators Burlington Northern Santa Fe as well as other stakeholders. The city is also due to meet with BNSF in October.
But if it comes down to fencing in the tracks, Baldwin said he’d fight it every step of the way.
“It’s not what a reasonable person would do under reasonable methods under reasonable conditions,” he said. “We’ll have our discussions but I would certainly be opposed to undertaking that draconian measure for this isolated incident.”
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