Where Are Watson, Harder On Barrhaven Rail Crossings?



How long does this have to go on?

We’ve seen repeated problems with rail signals on level crossings north of Barrhaven reaching the point of absurdity.

In 2015, difficulties with the crossings were occurring almost weekly.

So perhaps we should be happy that there has only been three problems with signals on the VIA line north of Barrhaven since last June. That’s three problems in five months.

Except that it takes only one problem to cause a fatal accident such as the one that killed six people at the Woodroffe Avenue crossing in 2013.

Let’s see now. We’re on the cusp of 2018, almost five years since the tragic accident and what have we seen from the city on eliminating these level crossings?

Mayor Jim Watson says the city lacks the funds to build these crossings and needs help from Via and the federal government.

Well Watson wouldn’t need that help if he didn’t spend an extra $3.2 billion on his BMW light-rail line. That’s about 32 overpasses … more than enough to solve the level-crossing problem on the heavy commuter roads north of Barrhaven.

So five years after the tragic deaths on an OC Transpo bus, what has the city accomplished in making South Urban Community residents safe? Nothing. Oh the city has conducted studies. Nice studies, too. Studies that push building those overpasses far into the future. And oh yes, it has cut some bushes.

Perhaps we’re being a bit harsh on the city not moving on this safety problem. Why they’ve taken action such as soothing words and a small memorial to the victims. Hope there’s room for another monument for the next group of people killed north of Barrhaven.

And where is planning committee chairwoman Jan Harder on all this? Barrhaven is her ward. Her constituents are in danger. And as the head of planning, she’s in an ideal spot to move the overpasses forward on the city agenda.

But instead Ottawa residents see her playing nice to developers, slapping down verbally fellow council colleagues and telling the public loudly that she is smarter than some of her council peers.

If she would use her big voice, enormous energy and her influence to get overpasses for her constituents, she might just prevent another round of rail-vehicle deaths.

Harder is perceived as being a good constituency politician. Putting your residents in danger is good?


A Transportation Safety Board video on the 2013 OC Transpo bus-train collision north of Barrhaven.


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13 thoughts on “Where Are Watson, Harder On Barrhaven Rail Crossings?

  1. I watched the re-enactment several times.

    I am sorry that there was an accident but from 2:19 (in the video) onward the driver’s inattention is evident.

    An overpass or underpass would have prevented this particular accident but it was driver error that caused the accident.


    1. Chaz:

      Tens of thousands of people use that level-crossing a week.

      I expect all of them will be paying attention.




  2. I should clarify my previous comment.
    I only needed to review the reenactment to verify what I thought I saw the first time through because I wasn’t wearing my glasses.
    Sure enough, after putting on my glasses – there it was.
    Third time through was to get the time stamp of the observation.
    There they are, on the right; a frigging line of stopped cars – this would have been my first clue that I’d better get ready to stop.

    Sorry but accidents do happen and drivers are paid to drive defensively.


  3. Watson and Harder are deploying the usual array of conjurers’ tricks – a puff of smoke here, some glitter in the air there, a loud noise from the left of stage. They are distracting the public from the reality that this is a municipal responsibility with a claim that the city cannot afford to fix the long-standing, ever-growing problem without the financial support of the provincial and federal governments.


    1. Ron:

      Right on, Ron.

      And if the city hadn’t wildly and incompetently overspent on the vanity project Mercedes LRT downtown, maybe the city would have the money to build these must-have overpasses and could still have built light rail to Kanata and Barrhaven.

      LRT cost is a huge screw-up.




    2. Does anyone know whether the city has added the multitude of separated grades crossings required throughout the city to the official plan(s) of the city? If the funding requirement is not included in the official plans, then it cannot be included in the formula from whence the development fees are derived. If these costs are not included in the development fee formula, where, pray tell, do Mayor Watson and Councillor Harder, and their colleagues around the council chambers, think the funding for the city’s share of the cost of these separated grade crossings will come from? Just askin’.


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  4. Since the vast majority of those who leave and enter the bedroom suburb of Barrhaven every day are those who live there and are commuting for work, a special tax levy should be placed on Barrhaven residents to pay for the underpasses.
    They could pick up 25 per cent with the rest of the city, the province and the feds picking up 25 per cent each. Taxpayers in the core pay a lot more in taxes than those in Barrhaven because our tax system is based on the cost of your house and the average house costs less in Barrhaven than in many other neighbourhoods within the Greenbelt.
    As such, if we pay for the underpasses from general property tax dollars, Barrhaven will actually pay less than its fair share of a project designed primarily for them. Now if Barrhaven was a well-planned community such as Kanata where one can work as well as live, it would be a different story as there are reasons for people who don’t live in Kanata to go there everyday (such as work in the high-tech sector, Canadian Tire Centre).


    1. Andrew:

      I’m not with you on this.

      Rich neighbourhoods will get what they want through special levies and poor areas do not.




    2. Andrew, I recall Bob Chiarelli acknowledging that during his tenure as either the Regional Chair or the mayor of the newly amalgamated Ottawa, that the upgrades to the road networks in Orleans were funded in part with the proceeds of the development fees collected from the new homes built in Barrhaven. Jan Harder agreed with Mr. Chiarelli’s assessment, but neither went so far as to actually apologize.

      Put another way, the residents of Barrhaven (a group that I am not a member of) have already paid for more infrastructure than they received. Why should they have to pay a second time?


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  5. This rail crossing is and always has been unsafe. The fact that lives were taken (in fact seven as one survivor, unable to cope with the memories and stress, killed himself this month, hopefully there won’t be more). To the list of ‘victims’ add all the family and extended family members of those killed, those injured and those who survived; each time, add on family and extended family members.
    Trying to cast blame on one individual is not only unwarranted, but also wrong. Speak with Ottawans who regularly use this crossing and find out how safe they feel this crossing is.
    This continual move to direct the responsibility of the cost on other levels of government, is what this municipal government has been doing for far too long. Money that has been spent on LRT was not done to correct a obvious seriously unsafe situation, to a great extent, it has been done for self-glory and personal legacy interests.
    When you care about your citizens, your priority is them.
    Many regions of this city have, and are, paying a high price for infrastructure that does not meet the needs in the community in which they live.
    Jimmy and Jan Harder have dropped the ball on this, as has most of the council.
    Remember it when the next vote comes up on October 22, 2018.
    I want a council that cares about and serves the needs of all of our city.


  6. The fact is that all level rail crossings are inherently dangerous. If such crossings can be eliminated, so much the better. But another approach is to recognize the danger and show caution.
    Other transit authorities require that vehicles stop at all level crossings, whether equipped with signals or not, allowing the operator to determine if proceeding is safe. I fail to understand why this simple and cheap action has not been taken by OC Transpo.
    In 2013 we demonstrated that there is no special divine protection for Ottawa residents. OC Transpo remains an exception to an established safely practice and I fail to believe it can claim justification for its defiance.


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    1. Brocklebank:

      Level crossings with huge numbers of cars, trucks and buses, to my mind, should have grade separation.

      I can’t believe Nepean didn’t recognize this when they opened Barrhaven to development.

      I wonder how long Jan Harder can avoid dealing with this issue?




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