Rail bridge maintenance leading to traffic tie-ups
Okotoks: Trains force to slow in downtown
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 16, 2013 06:00 am
Drivers in Okotoks will need to get used to longer waits at downtown train crossings until the end of the month.
CP Rail is doing maintenance and final repair work to the rail bridge over the Sheep River on the town’s east end after June’s flood washed out the south bank of the river at the site.
As a result, trains passing through Okotoks have been required to slow down while as work continues, resulting in long lines of vehicles forced to wait until the trains pass. However, the work is slated to wrap up by the end of the month and trains will then be able to return to normal speeds through town.
“Once that work is completed the train speeds through the Town will be raised and would, therefore, reduce wait times at crossings,” said Kevin Hyrsak, CP Rail spokesperson.
During June’s flood, the riverbank on the south side of the rail bridge on the east end of town was washed out. While the bridge approach was quickly rebuilt and train traffic resumed soon after, Hyrsak said work continued on final repairs and is almost finished.
In town council recently Mayor Bill Robertson raised the issue of long waits for vehicles on North/Southridge Drive due to slow moving trains.
Robertson said longer wait times could result in traffic back ups and people will have to be patient.
However, he said he isn’t concerned about longer waits for trains affecting response times to emergencies. He said 32 Street has a bridge over the rail tracks and the south fire hall is in place to provide a back up on the south side of the Sheep River.
“Emergency services will know when the train’s coming and that’s why we have the south side fire hall,” he said.
CP Rail officials are tentatively scheduled to give a presentation to town council and local emergency officials in November.
However, Robertson said he is concerned about the prospect of CP Rail using longer trains and what this could mean for motorists and emergency personnel.
“I know it seemed to me an average wait might have been anywhere from five to eight minutes, somewhere in there,” he said. “But if they double the length of the train and it’s even slower, we could be talking about 15 minutes, waiting for a train.”
MD of Foothills resident Lilia Milman has ended up sitting in traffic waiting for a train, but she said this isn’t the only place people face traffic waits in town.
“I notice traffic is a lot more backed up in Okotoks these days,” she said.
That said she admitted traffic issues do not bother her. She’s able to be patient.
“I just turn up my music and dance along to it,” she said with a laugh.