Rail Trail crossing remains unsafe as MTO ignores the problem

It appears that, once again, the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) has ignored the Town’s plea for something to be done regarding the safety of pedestrians at the Rail Trail crossing on Hwy. 21 between Southampton and Port Elgin.

At the recent Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) conference held in January, Saugeen Shores delegation of Mayor Luke Charbonneau, Councillor Cheryl Grace, CAO Kara Van Myall and Jill Roote, Manager of Strategic Initiatives presented a briefing to senior MTO officials that set out several possibilities:

1) Reduce the speed limit from 80 KMS to 60 KMS along the stretch of HWY 21 from South Street to Concession 10,
2) Improve the intersection of Hwy. 21 and the Saugeen Shores Rail Trail through such additions as paved shoulders for increased accessibility and more prominent trail crossing warning signs,
3) Share the findings of studies they have undertaken at this crossing with the Municipality and
4) Recognize that Saugeen Shores and MTO have shared responsibility along the connecting link, form a partnership to that end and start to communicate on a more regular basis.

The delegation pointed out that Saugeen Shores is “… evolving into a regional hub and a community of choice for many new residents” as it continues to be one of the fastest growing communities in SW Ontario.

The concerns raised date back several years, including in 2013, when a petition was brought forward by the Rail Trail Association and sent to local MPP Lisa Thompson, with no results.

Also in 2013, town staff advised Council that the province was about to undertake major road construction upgrades that included the contentious section. Then Director of Public Works, Stu Doyle, said that he felt it was an opportune time to once again approach MTO with a view to having this section of highway improved.

In the past, there have been numerous requests put forward to the MTO, by the town, various organizations and individual residents, and there has been no indication of any willingness (by the MTO) to even consider undertaking improvements.

Several suggestions put forward at that time (2013) included:

  • a speed limit reduction in the area (no response by the MTO)
  • increased and/or improved signage and reduced signage by the Southampton Residents Association (MTO in a written letter denied both)
  • service requests to consider changes to the rail trail crossing (no response by the MTO)

Again, at that time in 2013, Doyle said that correspondence had been sent to the MTO with a request for improved safety but no formal response had been received.

When a meeting finally took place in 2017 between MTO and Saugeen Shores Public Works and Engineering, none of the suggested safety improvements noted were approved or executed.

Saugeen Times has been following this issue since 2008 and, as such, has amassed an archive of photos that demonstrates the safety issues that are on-going at the Rail Trail crossing.  In 2016, we conducted a public survey asking the question : Should the Ministry of Transportation solve the problem of the Rail Trail Crossing H’Way 21? The response rate was  75.88% ‘yes’ … 24.12% ‘no’

All of which MTO is apparently willing to ignore.

Saugeen Times archived photos
For larger view, Click on Image

No where to go – This could have been a ‘dandy’ as Saugeen Mobility appears to be sandwiched between two vehicles … it was waiting to turn into Hi-Berry as the van pulled out but, unfortunately, the driver in the white car couldn’t wait the 30 seconds and therefore passed on the shoulder … the vehicles missed each by a matter of ‘inches’ – 2016