Level crossings change landscape for GO Expansion communities

As transit grows in the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, so do the challenges – and solutions – for communities seeing an increase in GO trains on their local rails. Here, we’re bringing you deeper into the process that takes place when dealing with busy level crossings of traffic and pedestrians across rail lines, as well as focusing on some level crossings that are now being evaluated.

The promise is one of more options across a wider landscape for growing Ontario communities looking for improved GO Transit.

For safety experts, and those living and working within those neighbourhoods that are seeing an increase in commuter rail traffic, the test is making sure those trains roll through safely.

From the first moment railway lines crossed an active roadway, there’s been a science to making both routes work. So as the ongoing GO Expansion project – along with new Toronto subway and rapid transit projects – looks to the largest transit growth in Canadian history, we thought we’d explain what’s now taking place when it comes to level crossings.

The current level crossing at Huntingwood Drive with safety arms and lights

As rail traffic continues to increase through the GO Expansion project, so too is safety at level crossings. (Metrolinx photo)

One of the most common safety concerns Metrolinx officials hear when out in the community is regarding these junctions. A level crossing is where a railroad and a road cross at the same level. It’s also known as an at-grade crossing, and currently there are more than 50 at-grade crossings on Metrolinx-owned corridors. Some are in the heart of the city, and others nestled along the green belt.

Included in the environmental assessment taking place for the GO Expansion program – the largest phase of work called ‘OnCorridor’ – is a review of some at-grade crossings on corridors that will see increases in service. To support this growth along the Stouffville and Barrie corridors a number of crossings are being reviewed.

To be specific, they include:

  • Denison Street and Kennedy Road in City of Markham
  • Passmore Avenue, McNicoll Avenue, Huntingwood Drive, Havendale Road and Progress Avenue in City of Toronto
  • Wellington Street East Grade Separation in the Town of Aurora
  • McNaughton Road Grade Separation in the City of Vaughan
The Havendale level crossing in Scarborough

As work on the GO Expansion project continues, many level crossings like this one on the Stouffville GO Corridor are being reviewed for future safety improvements. (Metrolinx photo).

The assessment looks at the potential impacts of separating the road from the rail – creating totally different paths – as well as the benefits. One of the benefits of separating the rail from the road is that it allows Metrolinx the ability to improve traffic flow on the corridor and increase the operational reliability, so trains run on time with little interference. It also helps to create better connections with dedicated crossings for pedestrians and cyclists.

Now that we’re including you into this crossing conversation, it might be a good opportunity to talk about your responsibilities around every level crossing:

  • Never drive around lowered gates – it’s illegal and deadly. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, call 1-877-297-0642.
  • Never race a train to the crossing. You will always lose.
  • Do not risk getting trapped on the tracks. Only proceed through a highway/railway crossing if you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping.
  • If your vehicle stalls on a crossing, immediately get everyone out and far away from the tracks. Call 911 or your local emergency number for assistance.
  • At a multiple track crossing waiting for a train to pass, watch out for a second train on the other tracks, approaching in either direction.
  • Always expect a train. These gigantic vehicles do not always follow set schedules.
  • Even if the locomotive engineer sees you, a freight train moving at 120 km/h can take up to two kilometres or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied – that’s equal to more than 18 football fields.

GO Expansion means positive change for communities and the GO Transit customers living in them. But it also means living up to a vital test – to make sure everyone is safe as transit options continue to grow.

Learn more about the environmental assessment and share your feedback at MetrolinxEngage.com.

Story by: Georgina Collymore, Metrolinx communications senior advisor