Safety upgrade planned for LRT crossing; parents say son’s death was preventable
Luke Jansen was out for a run before heading to work when he was struck by an LRT train last October.
The 22-year-old was a recent political science graduate from the University of Alberta. He played in a band and worked with the Strathcona County elections office.
Jansen was steps away from his Parkallen home, waiting for a southbound train to pass at the 60th Avenue crossing, near 113 Street.
Like most runners, he was wearing ear buds, and once the train passed he stepped out – not realizing there was a northbound train coming down the track.
“We definitely knew that the situation that Luke found himself in was due to the way the whole system is set up,” said Luke’s mother, Z’Anne Harvey-Jansen.
According to documents obtained by Global News, about three months before Luke’s death, the City of Edmonton had received a 311 complaint outlining a safety concern at the crossing. The issue was addressed only following Luke’s death.
Now the city has announced a plan to make a safety upgrade to the crossing.
A spokesperson told Global News Friday the city will be adding a mechanical arm with lights to the crossing. The upgrade will cost approximately $120,000. There’s no timeline for when it will be completed.
The spokesperson also said the city was in the middle of reviewing safety at the crossing when Luke was struck.
City officials are now considering similar changes to other locations as well.
“The city has agreed to put in those crossing arms. Had those arms been in place before, the accident wouldn’t have happened,” Luke’s father, Brad Jansen, said.
“This is something that could make a long-term difference in the community – the kids that go to school, adults using the crossing,” Harvey-Jansen said.
The parents are frustrated the city did not take complaints about the crossing more seriously before their son was killed.
“There was some awareness that this crossing was a potential problem,” Jansen said.
Ben Thibault uses the crossing often and had raised concerns about its safety. Thibault filed a complaint with 311 in July, three months before Luke’s death.
In his complaint he wrote: “The bells stop ringing at this signal before the train has actually gone by. They sometimes go silent when the train is approaching and then restart.”
“If someone went at that exact moment, thinking that the train they were waiting for had passed and that they could now proceed, they would have been struck,” Thibault wrote.
Thibault received a letter from the office of the city manager dated March 1.
The letter said: “Specific to the the October 6, 2017 event, it was determined that the crossing was functioning properly as designed and within the Transport Canada standards. Specific to the bell volumes, there is automatic ambient adjustment on the bells so they are louder when a train is present and quieter in between trains. From a distance, it is possible that the perception is that the bells stop ringing. While still remaining within Transport Canada standards, after the October 6, 2017 incident, the ambient adjustment was disabled and the bells have been operating at full volume, regardless of ambient noise.”
“People need to respond to those things and not wait for fatalities to act,” Harvey-Jansen said.
The Jansens suggested city officials meet with complainants on site so they can completely understand the problem.
“I think there would be a lot of value if the city could adopt that practice in the future,” Jansen said.
In the months since Luke’s death, members of the Lendrum and Parkallan Community Leagues have continued to lobby the city for changes to the crossing.
“We’re just happy no one forgot about us, because most people would have,” Harvey-Jansen said.
“It helps knowing an accident might be prevented in the future for another family – but grief is grief and Luke is gone and nothing is going to change that,” Jansen said.
When asked whether their son’s death might have been preventable had additional safety measures been in place, Harvey-Jansen said: “Not maybe, definitely.”
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