Salmon Arm  

Sicamous council hears Silver Sands rail crossing repairs to cost more than $160,000

Big bill for rail crossing

Sicamous council members heard repairs to the Silver Sands railway crossing will cost the district more than $160,000.

The repair work is expected to take 2 days to complete, while CPKC crews work with contractors to dig out the current crossing and replace it with a brand new one.

Paul Whalen attended the Feb. 28 finance committee meeting as a representative of Canadian Pacific Kansas City.

Whalen told council the way the current crossing was built revealed it hasn't been rehabilitated in a long time.

“The planks themselves, or the concrete themselves, are 11 feet long, so I really don't know when the last time this crossing was rehabbed but it was quite some time ago," Whalen said.

"I've not worked for CP when we installed this type of concrete, that's how long it's been sitting in the ground.”

The crossing will need to be closed while the work is done. However, Whalen said they could create a temporary crossing to allow emergency vehicles and residents that live on the other side to safely cross.

Mayor Colleen Anderson asked why communities have to bear all of the maintenance costs on railway crossings.

“And Paul, I guess my question is, are all communities paying for the rehab of the crossings in their communities?” Anderson asked.

Whalen explained how responsibility for railway crossing maintenance is determined.

“Typically CP pays for any range road or township road because it was considered that these range roads were surveyed before the railway got there,” Whalen said. “So in this case here, the railway came before the road was put across the railway, and that's why the town here is 100 per cent on the book.”

Coun. Siobhan Rich asked about the possibility of putting in an underpass or overpass to avoid future costs for crossing rehabilitiation.

“Have we looked at going under, like having access from the beach park and going over under there?” Rich said.

Whalen explained that the cost of an overpass or underpass is typically between $12 and $16 million.

Coun. Bob Evans informed her that the true cost would likely be even higher.

“Salmon Arm’s was upwards of $20 million. So when we say 16 million, we're probably looking at 25,” Evans said.

Communities bear the full cost

The mayor and councillors expressed frustration the cost for this rehabilitation work would fall entirely on the community, as Anderson wondered about renegotiating the agreement.

Whalen explained CPKC doesn't have much interest in renegotiating the agreements, and in fact they would prefer not to have rail crossings at all.

“We do have a collaborative approach, like we offered to rehab the crossing, we did not offer to close the crossing,” Whalen said. “We understand that there's access needed in certain locations. Communities can't afford a minimum of $12 million grade separation to go across the railway tracks.

“But on the other hand, if a railway had its preference, there would be no railway crossings because that's the place where people get struck by trains regardless of a warning system being placed.”

Whalen was unable to give council a firm date for when they would begin the rehabilitation work, however council informed him if the work was left until the summer, the process could be complicated by an influx of summer visitors and tourists.

Bianca Colonna, chief financial officer, informed council that $50,000 to fund the work would come from general expenses. The remainder would be paid for through prior surpluses.

More Salmon Arm News