A part of White Rock beach has closed, and more train whistles – and more fences – are set to come to the entire promenade this summer.
Starting immediately, the boat launch access point at Bay Street will be closed. In addition, all trains will be required to whistle during the daytime as they cross pass through the city.
The changes come after a Transport Canada order to make several changes to railway crossings in the interest of safety.
“These Transport Canada orders will be a difficult change to the waterfront,” said White Rock Director of Engineering Greg St. Louis in a statement.
“We recognize that the health and well-being of our residents and visitors comes first.”
Fences will also be installed at the Coldicutt Ravine, the entire stretch between Finlay Street and Semiahmoo Reserve, and along the west side of Bayview Park by the end of June.
The boat launch will be reopened after an audio and visual warning system with crossing arms has been installed.
“The promenade area of White Rock, B.C., in my opinion, has significant deficiencies in terms of public safety relative to railway operations,” wrote Dennis Maskell of Transport Canada in a letter to the city and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., which owns the rail line.
Transport Canada found people doing yoga and jogging on the railway during the course of its review, along with inconsistent whistle warnings by trains.
“The City of White Rock has responsibility to its citizens and visitors alike to strategically locate safe pedestrian crossing systems all along the promenade, including the “West Beach” area of the promenade,” the report read.
“What is required for rail safety at the White Rock promenade is a far cry from what exists today, despite the good intentions of the BNSF and the City of White Rock.”
At the time, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin said he was against any fencing.
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“Any suggestion that we’re going to have to fence off the waterfront…I would dispute that,” he said.
“For some strange reasons, people like to walk along the tracks. If we have that covered by chainlink fencing, and a train comes along, how are they going to get out?”
The upcoming changes are disappointing to Roger Kealy, who has lived in White Rock since 1975. He blames the increase in traffic from BNSF for the changes.
“It’s just seems like we’ve had our little piece of Canada stripped away from us by big bad America,” he said.
“The population has more than doubled in the last two decades…to have this railway whizzing by so close to people, it doesn’t happen anywhere in the States.”
He hopes that there will be pushback from residents.
“Once the people start finding that their access to the beach is blocked on weekends, maybe then we might find some action on this.”
© Shaw Media, 2014