AMHERST – While no decision has been made, longtime Amherst town councillor Terry Rhindress is concerned his fellow councillors may vote to close off Erncliffe Avenue because of required changes to the railway crossing there.
“I don’t think closing the street is a very good idea because it would inconvenience a lot of people,” Rhindress said Monday. “I know it’s going to cost money, but I think it’s an important crossing, especially if something were to happen between this crossing and the one up on Chamberlain Street.”
Back in May, town council was made aware that both CN and the town were required to make upgrades to four crossings within the town. Staff met with CN representatives in June to discuss the required changes that were being mandated by Transport Canada.
There are four crossings including Erncliffe Avenue, Victoria Street, Chamberlain Street and Industrial Park Drive.
Amherst is responsible to pay 12.5 per cent of the cost, which would amount to approximately $53,000 of $423,000. The work would have to be completed by March 31, 2019.
During the November committee of the whole meeting, deputy CAO Jason MacDonald said there are several options for Amherst to consider. Gas tax cannot be used to fund the railway project, but the Victoria Street sidewalk project was completed in-house saving $65,000 that he said could be used to fund a portion of the Robert Angus Drive sidewalk project that was to be funded from operating and capital reserves.
MacDonald told council that would free up money to complete the railway gates project.
However, he said council also has the option of closing the street.
“Closing the street on both sides of the rail line would not impact access to private property, but it will make snowplow operations cumbersome,” MacDonald said in his report to council. “In addition, residents of this area of town would have to use Copp Avenue or Russell Street to exit this part of town causing somewhat of an inconvenience.”
Another option could be to remove the ban on train whistles at the crossing, removing the requirement for the gates.
Rhindress said it would be an inconvenience to have the street closed because people would no longer be able to cross the tracks since CN considers the tracks private property. It would force vehicle and pedestrian traffic to take a longer route to get to Lawrence and LaPlanche streets and access areas of the downtown.
He is afraid once the street is closed it would cost a lot of money to reopen it later should council reconsider.
As well, he said, snowmobilers have an agreement with CN to use the crossing to get between the trail system to Long Lake and the trails that take snowmobilers to the Esso in West Amherst.
His fellow councillors have given no indication how they intend to proceed, but he suggested residents in the area may want to attend the Dec. 17 meeting of council, when a decision may be made.