Rail Crossing Study: Frequently asked questions

What is a level rail crossing (also called a grade crossing)?

A level rail crossing refers to the intersection of a road and a railway line at the same level or height. At a level rail crossing, the road and railway are at conflict with one another in that only one can be crossed at a given time for safety reasons.

What is a ‘grade-separated’ rail crossing?

A grade-separated rail crossing refers to the separation of a road and a railway line so that they cross at different levels or heights. This is achieved through the construction of a bridge (overpass) or a tunnel (underpass). A grade-separated crossing removes the conflict point between the railway and the roadway and allows both the vehicles and trains to function without disrupting each other.

What is a transportation feasibility study?

A transportation feasibility study is a technical analysis to help understand the impacts to the transportation network for all modes of travel under different scenarios. A transportation feasibility study typically involves collecting traffic data, analyzing the movements of people by different modes on a local road and trail network, and testing possible changes to that network (for example, closing a road at the rail line or maintaining access). The study will also test feasibility based on safety criteria and other criteria such as cost, impact and other factors at each location to determine which options are best suited for further study at each rail crossing.

Why is the City undertaking this transportation feasibility study?

Metrolinx is planning to bring two-way all-day rail service on the Kitchener GO rail line as part of its 2041 Regional Transportation Plan. This will improve the availability and reliability of regional passenger train services. These improvements are in line with the City’s Strategic Plan: Guelph. Future ready., which supports local transportation improvements, integration with regional transit, and transportation connectivity.

Increasing rail service will increase in the frequency and the speed of GO trains. This may require changes at several rail crossings in Guelph to meet safety requirements and crossing design standards in accordance with Transport Canada’s Railway Safety Act. This study will determine feasible solutions to provide:

  • Safe connectivity for people who walk, bike, use a mobility device and drive across the railway tracks
  • Assess the impacts of potential changes to the level crossings to the transportation network
  • and develop suitable solutions to mitigate any negative impacts

Why might changes at the level crossings be needed?

Faster and more frequent trains at a rail crossing without adequate safety measures increase safety risks for people walking, biking and driving cars. Frequent train crossings will lead to increased traffic queuing, congestion and related noise and air quality impacts because of idling vehicles. Some of the existing level crossings may not meet the design standards required for the increased train speeds, which would impact the safety of those using the crossing.

What crossing locations are being assessed?

The study is divided into two key areas. Study Area A is located in the Old City Neighbourhood, and includes review of four level crossings at: Alma Street, Edinburgh Road, Yorkshire Street, and Glasgow Street. The Study Area B is located in the east end of the City and includes the level crossing at Watson Road and the informal trail crossing at Cityview Drive.

What will be the outcome of the study?

This transportation feasibility study will assess whether the existing crossings can remain functioning safely in view of the increased speed and frequency of the trains, and if not, will explore other possible measures to improve the safety and function of the existing level crossings. The potential changes may include:

  • grade separation of a street or path from the railway tracks,
  • closing a crossing for vehicles and limiting the use to pedestrians and cyclists only, or
  • completely closing a crossing.

The transportation feasibility study will evaluate the transportation impacts of the alternatives at each individual crossing, as well as the impacts resulting from different combinations of alternatives at the crossings. Therefore, the goal of this study is to determine what alternatives are or are not feasible based on impacts to the whole transportation network.

We are looking for suggestions, comments and feedback from community members and stakeholders that will guide us toward developing a solution that best meets the needs of the community.

What happens if a grade separation is identified as the best option?

If a grade separation is warranted, the next step would be to complete a Class Environmental Assessment (EA), a future step that is not a part of the scope of this feasibility study. The Class EA process is a formalized decision making process that requires the review and evaluation of alternatives. The Class EA will expand on the recommendations of this feasibility study by evaluating alternatives, not only from a transportation perspective, but also considering other factors such as the natural environment, cultural heritage, socio-economic impacts and costs. Public consultation is also a key component of the Class EA process, so there will be more opportunities for public input in the event of a Class EA.

What changes or alternatives are being considered at each crossing? How are solutions being determined?

The alternatives being considered include:

  1. doing nothing (leaving the crossing as is);
  2. grade separation of a street or path from the railway tracks (e.g. underpass or overpass);
  3. making a crossing for pedestrian and cyclist use only, either at grade or through a grade separation; and,
  4. closing the crossing.

To determine a recommended solution, the study will look at the unique context of each individual crossing and consider the transportation network holistically (e.g., how does closure at one location

impact another). Not all alternatives may be applicable at each crossing, but generally each of these options will be considered.

How will implementing the recommendations of this study affect adjacent neighbourhoods?

Reviewing possible improvements to the level crossings has its benefits, such as enhanced safety, reduced congestion at the crossing (if connection is maintained), and the potential to add road capacity to the crossing road. However, we acknowledge that some of the alternatives considered may have negative impacts.

Potential impacts will be considered for each design alternative. These can include physical separation of neighbourhoods, loss of connectivity for pedestrians and cyclists, diversion of traffic onto other roads resulting into congestion, and increased travel time. In the immediate vicinity of a crossing, property acquisition and restricted driveway access may be required to accommodate a grade separation structure. Grade separation structures may require remodeling or closure of some local streets.

This study will identify the high-level impacts to inform and evaluate the feasibility of a particular alternative in relation to the other alternatives. The specific impacts and their magnitude will be determined through the Class EA process and the design phases, which are subsequent phases required after this feasibility study.

Will active transportation be considered?

As part of the review of options at each crossing, the study will assess which crossings are best suited to accommodate cycling or pedestrian facilities. Options can include accommodating active transportation users by including sidewalks, bike lanes, etc., within the road right-of-way or constructing a new pedestrian bridge to maintain pedestrian access. At this point in the study, no recommendations have been made.

How will members of the public be able to comment on/contribute to the recommended solution?

Opportunities for public engagement will be regularly updated on the project website and communicated externally by the City. The City will use haveyoursay.guelph.ca to post opportunities for community input.