They want some warning lights or perhaps a signal or protective rail crossing arms ... or all of the above. What they don't want is status quo because that is proving to be just too dangerous.
Janice Blenus, the mayor of the village of Macoun, said that another recent fatality at the rail crossing leading into their community of just over 200 residents just off Highway 39 has convinced her and others that something needs to be done in terms of a safety upgrade.
“We have asked for lights and a warning alarm for years,” said Blenus, who stated that a report in The Mercury regarding the recent fatal collision between a car and a freight train that took the life of a local priest, may have suggested that lights and horns were already in place.
“But I believe the report noted that the lights and horn were working on the train. There are no lights, horns, bells, or protective arms deployed at the crossing itself,” she said.
There is a stop sign and the traditional railway crossing traffic sign.
“We've had three major incidents at this one crossing in the past six months ... two fatalities and one major injury and there have been several more in recent history. We've been keeping track,” said Blenus.
The mayor, who happens to live fairly close to the tracks, said she wouldn't be lodging any complaints if warning lights or bells were installed to note the presence of an approaching train, especially since the sight lines looking south provide a challenge.
“You have to turn your whole body to get a good look. The report from the recent fatality said that Father Rama's vehicle had come to a stop at the tracks, yet he was in a collision with a train and the lights and horn on the train were working,” said Blenus.
She said the appeal for a more complete warning system at this fatal crossing begins with CP Railway itself. They would have to provide approval and according to the Macoun mayor, “that was done some time ago and they said no. Over a year ago, they stated that what was there was sufficient.”
In the meantime, the village of Macoun is growing, the population has increased by 45 per cent, many of them children.
“We have 12 to 15 trains going through here daily, we have school buses, oilfield truckers, commuters working in Estevan, and a priest who was just trying to get to his church on a Sunday morning,” said Blenus.
She reiterated that the rail line angle from the south is the challenge. A first glance suggests a clear view since there are no major sight impediments, but as Blenus noted earlier, “there is a distinct angle to it and you do have to turn your body to get a full look at the tracks and in some vehicles, there is a blind spot.”
Blenus, who has served as mayor for a little over a year, said the village council will be drafting another letter to the CPR and will also direct some correspondence to Transport Canada in an effort to correct this existing situation.
“We know there is a cost-sharing element to this. The village is prepared to accept that. We've seen too many accidents there, something needs to be done,” Blenus said.