Maple Crest residents renew concerns about trains blocking emergency access to Edmonton area

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Maple Crest residents renew concerns about trains blocking emergency access to Edmonton neighbourhood
Residents of a southeast Edmonton neighbourhood continue to raise concerns about the lack of access to their community. This comes after emergency crews responding to a fire in the area were delayed by a train. Nicole Stillger has more – Jan 14, 2021

Residents of a southeast Edmonton neighbourhood are expressing renewed concern about the lack of access into their community.

It comes after a vehicle in the Maple Crest community went up in flames on Tuesday evening.

Neighbours called emergency crews — but said the fire truck was caught behind a train.

“On the only singular, permanent road that comes in and out of our neighbourhood,” resident Cristina Jarvis said Thursday.

“We had heard the sirens from the fire trucks, and then they were turned off. We just all stood there and waited and braced for what was going to happen, because we had no idea how long this train was going to be. At times, this train can be 15 minutes.”

The neighbourhood is flanked by Whitemud Drive to the north and Anthony Henday Drive to the east and south. The nearest major road to the west is 17 Street, but getting to it requires crossing CN Rail tracks.

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Jarvis has lived in the neighbourhood for about seven years and said these access concerns have been raised before.

“This is something that we have dealt with for many years — the neighbourhood has grown exponentially,” she explained.

“We’re very frustrated, alarmed and nervous for the next emergency, because we don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Edmonton Fire Rescue Services (EFRS) confirmed crews responded to reports of a vehicle fire at 39 Avenue and 6 Street at 6:41 p.m. on Jan 12.

Crews were delayed by the train for roughly three minutes, according to EFRS.

The first unit arrived at the scene at 6:53 p.m. The fire was fully extinguished by 7:29 p.m.

“The safety of our citizens is our top priority,” a statement from EFRS reads.

“Any delay that has an impact on the service and possibly the outcome of an emergency event, is a risk that the City of Edmonton and Fire Rescue Services attempts to manage.”

“It was still longer than it should have been for any other neighbourhood — they would have already had somebody there,” Jarvis said.

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The neighbourhood has a secondary access road which connects to Meridian Street, which then connects to 23 Avenue.

That road begins on a street marked “no exit.” It is not paved and is long, winding and covered in snow — plus, it too crosses the same train tracks about two kilometres to the south.

“This is not viable for any emergency in any situation. If there’s a train on our part of the train tracks, you can bet that it’s probably over there as well,” Jarvis said.

EFRS noted it’s aware of that access point, but — in this case — didn’t use it because of the relatively short delay.

“This secondary access route is not normally used, as it is much farther from the closest fire station and in the opposite direction of travel that would normally be taken,” the statement reads.

EFRS said it does not contact CN or CP if a train is already in motion, but “in the event where a train is not moving and completely blocking access for emergency crews seeking access for large-scale events, we would contact them to get them to move.”

Ward 12 councillor Mohinder Banga said he’s looking into his constituents’ concerns.

“We are investigating now as we got these concerns, especially when it comes to the safety and security of citizens,” Banga said Thursday.

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“We will be working with the administration to find all the viable options, and I will also enter a motion to find these options.”

The MP for Edmonton-Millwoods, Tim Uppal, tweeted that he’s heard from Maple Crest residents about their concerns.

“I previously raised this issue with municipal authorities, and will continue to advocate on your behalf,” his tweet reads, in part.

Jarvis said she wants people to pay attention.

“Eventually, I hope that what could happen is the developer does make a decision to move up their timeline and build a permanent road in some way,” she said.

According to EFRS, as the community builds out, upgrades to the secondary access route will be completed.

“Construction of 23 Avenue along a new alignment that ties into the 34 Avenue flyover will ultimately replace the temporary Meridian Road access.

The construction of this road will be the responsibility of the area developers and is dependent on the pace of development of the neighbourhood.”

Global News has reached out to the developer, Dream Development Edmonton, but has not yet heard back.

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