City will need financial help to build $430M rail separations, study says

A City of Ottawa study has concluded overpasses or underpasses are needed at five rail crossings, including the site of a fatal crash between a double-decker city bus and a Via Rail passenger train four years ago — but Via and other levels of government will have to help cover the cost.

The study was commissioned last year after the Transportation Safety Board recommended the city once again consider the need for such crossings, in the wake of the fatal Barrhaven crash on Sept. 18, 2013.

Six people died and dozens of others were injured in that collision.

The study, published Wednesday in advance of next week’s meeting of the city’s transportation committee, concludes the rail crossings at Woodroffe Avenue, the Transitway, Fallowfield Road, Merivale Road and Jockvale Road should all be grade separated “due to the existing and anticipated increases in road, Transitway and rail traffic.”

The cost to revamp all five crossings is estimated at $430 million, meaning the city will need to do the work in phases and will also need help from Via and the federal and provincial governments.

The city looked into grade separation at several level rail crossings more than a decade ago, but high costs, geotechnical issues and other factors led the city to decide against grade separation at those locations.

OC Transpo 2013 bus crash investigators Sept. 19 2013

Investigators with the transportation safety board in 2013 examine the scene of the fatal bus crash involving a Via Rail train. The city has examined the costs to replace the crossing with an overpass. (CBC)

Overpasses recommended at Woodroffe, Transitway and Fallowfield

Overpasses are now recommended for the Woodroffe, Transitway and Fallowfield locations because of previously identified soil and hydrogeological conditions, while underpasses are recommended for Merivale Road and Jockvale Road.

The three overpasses should be the first projects tackled, followed by Merivale Road and then Jockvale Road, the study said.

But because of the number of pedestrians and cyclists at Jockvale, city staff say a multi-use path underpass for the crossing should be built in the near term.

City staff are recommending the establishment of the Barrhaven Rail Safety Program, which would begin work on environmental assessments for the three potential overpass locations and the multi-use pathway.

Staff are also recommending delegating authority to Mayor Jim Watson to seek funding from the federal and provincial government and VIA Rail for the design and construction phase of the projects.

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