White Rock's beach gate is down but rail safety still on agenda

White Rock’s beach gate is down but rail safety still on agenda

WHITE ROCK — With the gate at the West Beach boat launch now a thing of the past, mayor Wayne Baldwin is hoping the city can come to a long-term agreement that satisfies all parties involved, while maintaining beach access for residents and tourists.

The contention arose two weeks ago when Transport Canada ordered the city to hastily erect a gate at the boat launch the morning of June 10 following a recent safety visit by an inspector.

According to Baldwin, after observing the area the inspector determined the west beach area unsafe and ordered public access to be restricted, which was to be done by the city immediately.

After almost universal opposition by residents and the city, Transport Canada allowed the city to remove the gate Thursday after a series of proposed safety measures were accepted. Those measures included increased signs and more painted warnings on either side of the track.

“So we completed the work, put the signage up and (the inspector) went and looked at it on Wednesday,” said Baldwin. “He was happy with it and he revoked the orders and the fence is now done.”

Now, Baldwin is hopeful that the long-term solution will not prove to be nearly as restrictive. While a final plan has yet to be determined, Baldwin said it might include rail safety arms similar to what’s present at the pier crossing.

“That remains to be seen, but if we keep using it for vehicles I suppose you might put in rail arms. It all depends on what the final outcome of our discussions are with BNSF and Transport Canada,” he said.

Asked how much all of the safety measures would end up costing the city, Baldwin said he wasn’t sure at this point, but noted that the estimates for all of the proposed safety measures so far is around $1.8 million. How much of that the city actually ends up paying remains to be seen.

“We expect a good piece to be picked up by federal government and some, if not the rest, by the railroad,” he said. “We’re prepared to pay some of it if that’s what it takes to make the tracks safe for people on the crossing.”

A public rally was also held Friday by residents concerned not only with increasingly restricted access to the beach, but also the matter of rail safety. Participants were passing around a petition that will be forwarded to all parties involved asking for beach access to be restored as well as limiting or stopping entirely the movement of dangerous goods through the waterfront.

And while the city continues to work with Transport Canada and BNSF to solve the issue, Coun. Alan Campbell wondered if closed circuit television (CCTV) might be another way to step up rail safety.

“A few years ago I was an advocate of CCTV on the beach, lots of stuff goes on down there including trespassing on the railway,” said Campbell.

There was talk at the council table in 2012 of possibly putting CCTV cameras down on White Rock’s waterfront for community safety, but the idea never went anywhere. However Campbell said the city should seriously consider it in light of recent events.

“So we can be in a position to monitor something going on down there, cars on the tracks or people on the tracks, which is what brought this to a head,” he said.

“Then we’d be in a position to send someone down there to either get people off, issue tickets.”


Twitter @Questionchris