“I HAVE no PDFs, I have no PowerPoint, so all you get is a cranky Irishman.”
So began an impassioned plea to city council by local businessman Steve Smyth last night before he presented a petition asking the city to act fast and reopen the recently closed Frank St. level rail crossing.
At one point Smyth said he had forklift operators ready to move the current parking blocks.
“We can’t condone that kind of activity,” said councillor Bruce Bidgood in response.
One of just three possible passages over CN’s rail tracks which divide the city, the Frank St. closure June 11 is causing a congestion on the Sande Overpass as well as at the other level crossing at Kenney St.
Smyth said traffic has been backed up all the way to Keith on Kenney, and that transport vehicles have to swing into oncoming traffic to make a right turn there or else drive their trailer onto the sidewalk.
Transport Canada ordered CN to block vehicles from using the Frank St. crossing after two recent incidents in which transport trucks were nearly hit by trains.
Smyth was backed by 16 audience members – business and residential property owners from the West Keith neighbourhood in south Terrace – in presenting a petition to council hand-signed by 31 people from that area of town.
“We need your help to get traffic flowing freely through our business area and our residential area again. West Keith is proving to be the industrial and heavy commercial heart in the city. There is some significant investment finally after years of living and working in a dust bowl.”
Smyth cited the inconvenience to clients transporting goods over the remaining rail crossings, saying that long transport vehicles have been stuck for up to an hour at the three-way stop on the south side of the overpass, some of them taking back routes through residential areas to access the overpass from the other direction.
“You are absolutely right. We have a crisis,” councillor Marylin Davies, who was acting mayor in David Pernarowki’s absence, said immediately in response to Smyth’s address.
Chief administrative officer Heather Avison said the city had acted immediately when informed of the closure and has asked for a meeting with the provincial transportation minister.
Smyth said this move would certainly be a help to people who live on Braun, Keith, or Frank, but that an overpass would be a better solution to address the industrial traffic which will still have to take a detour.
Bidgood said that CN is unwilling to help pay for a new overpass, and that whatever federal money that might have existed in the past is no longer available.
“It’s just not possible for the city to make a new overpass,” Bidgood said, submitting that the city would have to implement a 40-fold increase in property and business tax to afford that.
Councillor Stacey Tyers reinforced the need for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to fix the problem.
“It’s their highway. They encroached on the crossing. And they need to fix it,” Tyers said.