An open letter to Mayor Carol Leclerc, MLA Ellis Ross, MP Nathan Cullen, Premier John Horgan, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Luc Jobin, President and CEO CN Rail.
On Wednesday, Sept. 6, a man was struck and killed by a train in Terrace, B.C. This tragedy affects many – the friends and family of the deceased, the crew of the train, the first responders and countless others.
Sadly, this event did not have to happen. For years this community has spoken of the need for added safety for people of this town, like many others across the country, that finds itself divided by our iconic symbol of a railway. Historically and economically the railway links this country from coast to coast. More and more communities now find themselves, at times, held hostage by our rail lines.
In our community, especially with the success of the growth of the port in Prince Rupert, we are experiencing more and more trains crossing through our town. For some people the added rail traffic adds minor inconveniences. I live on the south side of town and the Kenney Street crossing is my closest route in and out of town for work and retail. I am more and more forced to alter my route, adding time and mileage to my desired destinations. It is a bit of a drag to have to wait (for times up to 20-plus minutes) or turn around and choose the only other route into town over our sole overpass. But I am fortunate to own a vehicle and can add to the time or gas used. It can be annoying but not life altering.
I am always grateful that I am not travelling by foot having to wait or add the couple of kilometres that would take much more time to walk. I wonder how many people are late for work, and appointment or affected by inclement weather who have to either wait or alter their footpath?
The spot where the gentleman lost his life is well known for accidents. Regrettably his death was not the first and even more distressing, it will likely not be the last. It is a level crossing used by too many people to get to one side of town to another. Recently, after another accident, a fence was installed. Fences, concrete barriers and other impediments will not keep people from taking a shorter route. That fact is a reality. Those of us who have cars simply can’t appreciate the day to day realities of those on foot.
This area needs a pedestrian walkway. We also need another overpass for vehicles on either the east or west side of Terrace. No one in Terrace will deny these projects are essential. But here’s where it gets problematic: cost. Either one of these projects will be exceedingly costly and who will pay? The city cannot afford such endeavours, nor can the province. They are simply too expensive for those coffers. I get it, we’re talking millions of dollars. But I truly believe the time has come that all parties must come together to make these necessities happen. No more talk; it’s time for real action. Please put partisan politics aside and sit down together to make it happen. Everyone will need to contribute funds, including CN. I implore our Mayor, MLA and MP to schedule a meeting with each other to get things happening. You are our elected officials and it’s your job to lobby the higher elected officials and CN to make these projects real – no more studies or inquires. No more wringing of hands simply stating it’s too expensive and nothing more can be done.
CN too must be held accountable to be a better corporate citizen in not only Terrace, but all across the country in towns and cities where trains affect day to day movement. Erecting fences, putting up warning signs and barriers is simply not enough. People will always need to cross rail lines and it is up to all concerned parities to make it happen safely. I understand it will cut into their profit margin, but how many people must lose their lives? How do we value a life against profit?
I am not looking to blame anyone for what happened because that will not change anything. We can be the change. Will we? I put the challenge to all of you.