BNSF to close railing gaps on White Rock's West Beach

A BNSF freight train rolls along the White Rock waterfront. - Tracy Holmes
A BNSF freight train rolls along the White Rock waterfront.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes

Gaps in railings intended to discourage people from crossing the BNSF train tracks along White Rock’s waterfront are to be closed this week.

City engineer Greg St. Louis announced the plan during Thursday’s rail-safety task force meeting, held in the board room of Tourism White Rock’s Russell Avenue office.

“They’re going to be closing up the gaps on West Beach… hopefully Tuesday,” he said, of work to be undertaken by BNSF.

It is among steps being completed with an aim to improve safety along the tracks – a topic that has been of particular focus since last July, following the tragic derailment in Lac Mégantic, Que. and the death of jogger Anita Lewis in White Rock.

Task force members anticipate that signs warning pedestrians to ‘Look, Listen, Live’ will be posted at the waterfront’s six rail crossings by summer.

While the design of the signs has not been finalized, committee chair Coun. Grant Meyer said he favours bold black letters on a bright yellow background. He suggested four be erected at each of the crossings – two on either side – for the best odds of getting the message to pedestrians.

Coun. Al Campbell said the ‘Look, Listen, Live’ message “says it all.”

Campbell and Meyer were among city officials to host BNSF representatives – including Daryl Ness, general manager of the railway’s northwest division – for a safety-oriented tour of the waterfront rail line on May 15.

The tour was offered during a meeting last month in Seattle between Meyer, city manager Dan Bottrill and BNSF officials.

Meyer told Peace Arch News the visit lasted about four hours and “went really well.” (A request by PAN to accompany the tour was denied by BNSF, in an effort to encourage participants to talk openly.)

The group walked the entire promenade, as well as about one kilometre west to the Coldicutt Ravine – a popular walking route that the city wants to formally include as part of the promenade.

“Now I think they (BNSF) realize why we’ve kind of been saying if we separate (the walkway), it’s going to solve a lot of issues,” Meyer said.

The city has earmarked just under $2 million for the extension – $90,000 in 2014 for the design, and $1.63 million in 2015 for the construction.

As the project is eyed for BNSF land that is not part of the city’s existing lease with the railway, Meyer said a memorandum of understanding must be in place before the extension can proceed. He said Ness suggested the MoU could be ready within six months.

Meyer said detailed plans won’t be prepared until there’s an assurance it can go ahead.

“We’re not going to do it until basically we’ve got an agreement saying we can do it,” he said. “That was our position.”

Railway spokesperson Gus Melonas described the visit as “cordial,” and said BNSF looks forward to working with the city on “future enhancements.”


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