Weyburn city council has moved to restrict any vehicle hauling a trailer from travelling south on Queen Street from Highway 13 to Highway 39, to prevent further accidents from occurring at the CP railway crossing near Highway 39.
The decision to restrict any trailers on that road from crossing the CP Rail tracks came after a report by Police Chief Marlo Pritchard, telling the council at their meeting on Monday evening that driver error was the cause of both recent accidents involving semi trailers at that crossing.
Chief Pritchard said this was the conclusion of both the CP Police and the Weyburn Police Service, as both investigated the accidents, the first in November and the second on Dec. 11.
In the case of the first accident, icy conditions prevented the truck from being able to move off the tracks before the train hit the trailer, which was full of grain. With the second accident, a trailer full of sand was wrapped around the front of the locomotive after being struck by the train. The drivers in both cases escaped major injuries, and the driver in the second accident was charged by police for proceeding from a stop before it was safe to do so, said the police chief.
Asked if the presence of the trees had any effect in terms of visibility and sight-lines, and Chief Pritchard they feel the trees were not the issue in either accident, and the sight-lines are clear.
“Obviously we don’t want any further accidents, but it’s hard to make changes if it’s driver error,” said Mayor Debra Button.
Coun. Rob Stephanson said for him the issue still is that there is not enough room for a truck (or any other vehicle) pulling a trailer to cross the tracks safely if they are held up by traffic on Highway 39. If there is traffic, he said, the back of the trailer will still on the tracks.
“I believe no semi should be allowed to go south on that road. We can’t control the traffic on Highway 39. We’re asking for somebody to get killed,” he said, adding another scenario could be a tanker being hit instead of a trailer hauling sand, causing a major tanker explosion and/or a derailment of a train from the collision.
“I know this seems harsh and drastic for the businesses in that area, but the consequences (of not acting) are way worse,” said Coun. Stephanson.
Council has asked for a bylaw to be prepared to restrict any vehicle pulling a trailer from travelling south on Queen Street, and also for a report from administration on the available truck routes in Weyburn.
Coun. Dick Michel would not support this bylaw without a stipulation to talk to the businesses in that area, and he wanted the CP Police to be involved in the discussion as well.
Coun. Mel Van Betuw said he feels for the businesses, but added, “I think safety is paramount out there, and I don’t think talking is going to change that.”
Chief Pritchard earlier told council that the CP Police would not provide any opinion as to changing or placing of signs, as this is a municipal responsibility. Chief Pritchard did say he supported restricting trailers from south-bound traffic.
City manager Bob Smith pointed out they will have to check with Transport Canada and CP Rail to ensure any new signs are placed according to their rules for the railway.
“Both accidents were driver error; you can’t prevent that. We can’t prevent someone two weeks from now doing the same thing. I feel for the two businesses,” said Coun. Nancy Styles, adding her concern is to prevent another incident like Lac-Megantic, Que., where over 40 people were killed by a massive derailment and explosion.
Plans are falling into place for the “Winterfest” event to be hosted by the City’s Parks board on Saturday, Feb. 8, weather permitting.
Coun. Nancy Styles reported from the Parks board that the event, set to run at River Park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., will include several activities, including broomball and curling, using the ice on the Souris River.
There will also be a fitness class and activities, horse-drawn wagon rides, and the Weyburn Rotary Club will be selling chili and a bun, with all proceeds to be donated back to the Tatagwa Parkway, said Coun. Styles.
She noted the long-range forecast will be checked on Feb. 6, and if the forecast is for temperatures of -20 or colder, the event will be cancelled.
The city’s Public Works and Parks department had a busy 2013, said Coun. Dick Michel in a department report.
According to the year-end report for public works, they had completed 21 water service connection repairs, three water main break repairs, five water main valve replacements, six hydrant replacements, 11 curb box repairs, two sewer service connection renewals and five replacements of storm sewer catch basins.
Some of the projects they worked on just in December alone included a collapsed sewer service connection on Government Road, and helping the Weyburn Trailer Court repair a major water main break.
The city was advised that the provincial government approved additional PDAP funds for pavement repairs and replacement on the road in River Park resulting from the flood damages of 2011. This funding will be factored into the department’s 2014 budget.
The Weyburn Curling Club was approved for a $500 grant to assist with hosting a banquet for a provincial event, the 2014 Saskatchewan Men’s and Women’s Masters Curling Championship.
The championship is set to be held from Feb. 26 to March 2, with 12 men’s teams and up to 12 women’s teams; the winners will advance to the Canadian Championships later in March. The host committee will hold a banquet for the event.