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Cynthia Lulham: Initiative offers municipalities guidelines for rail safety

For some 15 years, Cynthia Lulham has worked with senior railway representatives and elected municipal representatives from across the country, organizing and guiding the development of solutions to rail-municipal proximity issues.

Lulham is project manger for the Proximity Initiative, which was formed as a way for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) and Railway Association of Canada (RAC) to deal with public complaints around railway-related issues.

Standardized Guidelines Ensure Railway Safety

During the 2019 FCM conference in Quebec City, she sat down with Municipal World CEO Susan Gardner. The two discussed the importance of have standardized rules for dealing with issues of railway proximity.

“The true fact is, if you have noise and vibration problems, you have security problems, you have safety problems,” Lulham said. “The FCM and the RAC signed an MOU, memorandum of understanding, to work together to look at solutions and how effectively they could work together to find solutions.

There were three initial goals in creating the initiative. Early plans focused on building a communication plan, developing effective guidelines, and creating a dispute resolution program.

Working with the Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA), the resolution program was crafted, along with a communication plan as well. A process was then put in place so communities would only go to the CTA after speaking with the railways.

Lac-Mégantic Disaster Offers Safety Incentive

Despite the calls for change, Lulham said there wasn’t much interest in using the guidelines. Ironically, six weeks after the guidelines were launched in 2013, the Lac-Mégantic disaster occurred.

Although the guidelines wouldn’t have helped prevent the tragedy (Lulham said Lac-Mégantic was a “particular disaster onto itself” that required many different factors to come together), cities became much more interested in the guidelines afterward.

Rail Guidelines Lead to Safe, Liveable Communities

Today, there are hundreds of municipalities that have adopted the initiative’s guidelines into their land use planning. The Province of Saskatchewan has even adopted related points into their provincial land use plan.

“Our guidelines are just that, they are guidelines. Once they are adopted into a land use plan or by-laws or zoning, they are a legal document,” Lulham said. “It’s aimed at creating safety and liveability in our municipalities.”  MW

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