Montreal Quebec - The Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) and the city are at an impasse.
For years, some Montrealers have fought to put track-level crossings for pedestrians and cyclists at some of the railroad crossings in the city.
CP is strongly opposed to track-level crossings in Montreal, and the company made it known Wednesday in an open letter published in the Montreal Gazette and Le Devoir.
Keith Creel, CP's president and CEO, argued that crossings at the same level as the train tracks are very unsafe and lead to more trespassing than grade-separated crossings like overpasses or underpasses.
"Since Montreal first expressed desire for new crossings some years ago, CP has repeatedly indicated that we are fully committed to working collaboratively with the city to permit the construction of new grade-separated crossings, pedestrian overpasses in this instance," the letter reads.
Creel said these would not compromise public safety or hinder the commerce of local merchants or the broader Canadian economy.
He said CP offered to help the city financially with the construction of fully accessible grade-separated crossings.
According to the Canadian Transportation Agency's 2014 review report, grade-separated crossings are safer alternatives to track-level crossings.
During the past decade, more than 85 percent of all rail-related deaths and serious injuries in Canada occurred as a result of motor-vehicle accidents at railway crossings, or trespassing on rail property, according to the Railway Association of Canada.
Creel's letter comes about a month after Luc Ferrandez, borough mayor of Plateau-Mont-Royal, submitted his own open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The letter addresses "what has become, over the years, a nonsense for both the economic development as well as for the mobility of labour and residents."
It's signed by Ferrandez and four representatives of Mile End enterprises.
The letter calls for the federal government to get involved and not to succumb to the desires of big companies like CP.
Specifically, the letter calls for track-level crossings over the rail line that separates the Plateau-Mont-Royal and Rosemont-La-Petite-Patrie boroughs.
The Mile End employment sector is economically "dynamic", especially in the last four years, Ferrandez's letter states.
Many of the sector's employees access the area by way of Rosemont metro, according to Christine Gosselin, supplementary mayor of the Plateau.
But because there is no track-level crossing north of Henri-Julien Avenue these people have to use the St-Denis Street underpass, she said.
In 2014, Mathilde Blais was killed by a transport truck while cycling through the underpass.
"So rather than it being a 7 minute walk to work, it turns into a 20 minute walk in a very hostile environment," Gosselin said.
Sometimes, Gosselin said, these people illegally cross the tracks anyway, and are issued tickets from railway security for trespassing.
Four years ago, there were 6,000 people working in Mile End, now there are 13,000, said Richard Ryan, borough councillor for Mile End.
"We're slowing down labour mobility, and that's also preventing economic development," Ryan said.
One of the issues, Gosselin and Ryan mentioned, is that CP's statistics are not Montreal specific, but rather Canada-wide.
"We can't treat the notion of track-level crossing the same way as in a rural area, in small villages," Ryan said.
Said Gosselin, "We feel that CP is not sufficiently aware of the statistics of the Montreal situation."
After unsuccessful mediation between CP and the city of Montreal conducted by the Canadian Transportation Agency, the railway company had a third party complete a risk assessment that it submitted to the city in 2016, according to Creel's letter.
It concluded that the proposed crossings would increase trespassing activity on the tracks, leading to a high risk of pedestrian or cyclist accidents with a train, according to Creel.
The city of Montreal would not comment on the study for "confidentiality" reasons, a spokesperson said.
But the city is not budging on its rejection of grade-separated crossings, the spokesperson said.
Overpasses and underpasses are inaccessible for people with reduced mobility and are difficult to maintain during the winter, the city's statement said.
The land surrounding the tracks belongs to CP, so track-level crossing in the area cannot be put in place without their collaboration and permission, Gosselin said.
"If the city is permitted to accommodate track-level crossings, it will ensure that it complies with Transport Canada safety standards, including the installation of a warning system and safety barriers," the city spokesperson said.
OKthePK Joint Bar Editor: After living in Montreal I can verify that Montreal pedestrian's are notorious for disobeying traffic signals. Would they not do the same with pedestrian grade crossing warning devices?