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On the subject of weed spraying in Guelph.. on the Guelph Junction Railway.

By shost at 8:53 pm on Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Guelph has always been a very ‘active’ town – if you plan to do something, you will expect significant attention to detail from residents. Environmentalism also runs high, and it’s part of what makes Guelph unique.

When the Guelph Junction Railway announced weed spraying work which was to be done the week of May 23′rd, it surely hit the papers the next week with a roar. The simple fact is, the only reason it roared was the high profile nature of the advertisement – and the fact it was advertised – weed spraying has occurred on railways for almost as long as there have been herbicides and it’s now coded in law as a requirement.  As a former member of the committee that worked on GJR’s weed spraying policy, this is a sensitive topic that many will find controversial, but just be thankful that GJR and Council are as attentive to the interests of local residents – Federally Regulated railways ARE NOT and WOULD NOT give you this level of attention. They just load their weed spraying train and let it go. For example, CP just sprayed their entire mainline and branchline system throughout Ontario over the last two weeks. Did you know about it? Were you notified? Nope… and yes, the same chemicals that you hate to hear, “roundup” “kamex”, etc are used – these are federally regulated  - you can’t use anything else without  working very closely with government and little else actually works effectively. CN and CP both research and try alternatives… and none of it has taken off because none of it has worked yet. GJR has also done signifcant research with local groups (University of Guelph) to find alternatives and we were part of that process – it didn’t work and we had to pay people to manually, by hand, control vegetation as a result.

And the poor lady who takes ‘great care’ to run a pesticide free garden beside a railway for the last 40 years….. sorry to say, but 40 years ago railways used copious amounts of herbicides…  it’s what made the right of way so clear and clean – akin to what Hydro used on their rights of way also. (Do your homework on this one folks!)

Furthermore, the bottom line is if you don’t control vegetation – the roadbed deteriorates faster, leads to potentially unsafe conditions (Stopping a train on a weedy rail line is much more difficult) makes it difficult for crew or railway employees to walk on railway tracks (when necessary), makes it much more difficult to see bad rail or tie conditions,  and also controls the risk of BRUSH FIRE. Oh crud, someone said the Fire word. The newspapers didn’t !

You see, rail on rail contact is not without ‘sparks’ and small bits of dry brush quickly become tinder… you don’t want a fire beside your home, do you? If you don’t control the vegetation, that’s exactly what you’ll get.

Witness what happened in Milton this past April, these photos say it all folks:

http://www.railpictures.ca/?attachment_id=24296

http://www.railpictures.ca/?attachment_id=24294

GJR has a sound plan to manage vegetation and takes great care in meeting the unique needs of our residents. Be thankful that they do – because on other, larger railway lines, they just spray roundup and don’t take the care to notify you either other than a public notice on their website which you have to go looking for…..

- Steve

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About High Speed Rail in Guelph – implications of new regulations

By shost at 8:32 pm on Wednesday, May 25, 2016

This is an issue that affects all GO commuters from KW – the reason’s why Guelph’s tracks are slow is basically outlined here. High speed rail is now being used as the impetus for these improvements.

The Guelph Mercury/Tribune posted this article about the possibility of High Speed Rail in Guelph. It also touches on reasons why bypassing Guelph is a necessity. But they fail to go into details – and state

““regardless of the final high-speed rail alignment, the rail line (within Guelph) will need to be upgraded at some point in the future for safety issues and compliance with recently introduced Transport Canada grade-crossing regulations. Implications will be addressed in the future.””

Source: http://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/6687999-guelph-high-speed-rail-stop-hinges-on-major-upgrades-at-level-crossings/

In the future? Doesn’t council deserve to know the implications NOW? Why are they supporting this and what will it cost? Who will pay for it?

In short, Transport Canada has legislated NEW crossing regulations that came into effect in 2014. Federally Regulated railway companies have seven years to comply with the act and upgrade existing crossings to the standard. Provincial or Shortline railway companies DO NOT have to comply with this act*. (See bottom of this post)

In short: Guelph Junction Railway does NOT have to make any changes due to this law (but they may make changes as they see fit, usually in the name of improving safety) – council should breathe a sigh of relief, this will save us some money as GJR improvements are 100% the cities responsibility.

But the Other railway in town – the Metrolinx/GO Guelph subdivision –  poses a major problem. Major changes WILL be required and we need to know NOW the high level implications. let’s go into more detail:

First, let’s look at Kent St:

http://www.railpictures.ca/?attachment_id=24339

Notice the proximity of driveways to the railway? And how roadways cross relatively close to public crossings? There are a large number of homes with driveways within 10 meters of the nearest rail.

Also on Yorkshire, there are homes VERY close to the public crossing:

http://www.railpictures.ca/?attachment_id=18742

“A public grade crossing where the railway design speed is more than 25 km/h (15 mph) must be constructed so that no part of the travelled way of an intersecting road or entranceway (other than a railway service road), is closer than 30 m (D) to the nearest rail of the grade crossing (see Figure 11-1).”

The speed limit right now is 15 MPH. In order to raise the speed limit, all Guelph downtown crossings at Yorkshare, Dublin, and Glasgow St would either

a) Need to be closed (at little relative cost other than the problems facing drivers going around the closures)

b) Or underpasses created (at great expense, about $10-20M each)

c) Or homes expropriated and demolished to comply with the law (all homes with driveways within 30M of any rail at a grade crossing on a mainline railway track)

d) Or the railway would have to be realigned  (which may be possible but only for about 5 meters – which may not solve much)

e) Or railway re-located outside of town (at a cost of hundreds of millions) or tunnelled (equally or  more expensive)

These are the facts – Edinburgh Rd will also be underpassed, at a cost of $20M, and Alma St would also have to be closed or underpassed.

Bottom line is every single crossing is due to be closed or changed in the above ways if we want any improvements to GO Transit, let alone High speed rail. Without this, high speed rail is simply not possible in Guelph and they will bypass the town.

Lay the groundwork now, Council, and be aware, this could be very costly. Keep in mind it’s very possible there could be shared or full funding made available for the work… depending on who funds it – Metrolinx may help as they now own the railway line, as well, whoever funds and builds the high speed rail project will also fund significant if not all portions of upgrades to make it possible.

While our city planners figure out the implications of this, now you have some fat to chew on.

- Steve

From the Transport Canada website:

Do the Grade Crossings Regulations apply to local railway companies?

No, the Grade Crossings Regulations do not apply to local railway companies.

Local railway companies include provincially-regulated shortlines, light rail transit, and tourist trains that operate equipment on federally-regulated tracks and infrastructure.

Crossing infrastructure, such as signs, bells, lights and gates, are the shared responsibility of host railway companies and road authorities

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