Brighton rail issue goes public
Published: September 11, 2008
Source: The Independent

Finally, Brighton taxpayers will get their say.

It took more than two hours of political wrangling, motions to reverse motions and more questions than answers, but Brighton council will let the taxpayer have their day at a public meeting to help decide the railway grade separation issue.

The proposal to build an unimpeded crossing at Prince Edward Street has repeatedly run into sand at local council, where hundreds of pages of consultants reports and years of study have failed to quell debate over the need, cost and location of any crossing.

At one point at the Mon-day meeting, the decision to keep the question alive hung by a single vote. Next Monday night, council could vote to forge ahead or end the eight-year effort.

“Council had an opportunity to can the (Environmental Study Report) ESR tonight but council in its wisdom, chose to move forward,” said Councillor Brian Ostrander, after the vote. “But we are years away from shovels in the ground.

“A public consultation is our next step. But we absolutely need to deal with the railway corridor safety issue.

“I want to allow staff to continue down the road to the ESR public consultation and get on with keeping people safe at railway crossings.”

The problem, said Councillor Craig Kerr, is the issue has never been given the proper consideration.

“This thing was just going down a pre-determined route,” he said.

The proposal to build a new crossing was put on the agenda in 2000 by then-Brighton Township Reeve Lou Rinaldi, now MPP for Northumberland-Quinte West. It all started with train whistles as the demand for an overpass or underpass went from being about noise to safety, as response times for emergency services came under scrutiny.

Council heard last year that a proposed underpass tunneling beneath the busy railway lines of CN, CP and VIA would cost $38 million. And that was the 2007 price, expected to grow by five or six per cent for each year of delay.

“The biggest fear is that we’ve gone this far down the road and what is the public going to say if we stop?” said Mr. Kerr, in an interview after the Monday meeting. “I think they’ll cheer.

“The people I talk to are saying, ‘My God, stop this monstrosity – we can’t afford it.’”