• John Jantak

Traffic lights at Terrasse-Vaudreuil train crossing will begin operating on February 12


In an area that already sees substantial traffic backups when a train passes through, the level crossing in Terrasse-Vaudreuil at the intersection of Third Avenue and the Exit 35 service road just off of westbound Highway 20 will have to adjust to the implementation on traffic lights set to become operational February 12.

The provincial Ministry of Transport (MTQ) announced that the traffic lights installed at the intersection of Third Avenue and the Exit 35 service road just off of westbound Highway 20 that leads north into Terrasse-Vaudreuil will begin operating on February 12, almost three years after the lights were first installed.

The purpose of the new traffic lights is to prevent vehicles from becoming caught in between the two pairs of railway tracks that traverse the western sector of the municipality. The lights will be synchronized to turn red before the railway warning lights and barrier system are activated as trains approach and cross Third Avenue which is intended to improve the safety of motorists. The two sets of tracks that travel through the community are respectively operated by the Canadian National (CN) and Canadian Pacific (CP) railways.

The Agence Métropolitaine de Transport (AMT) also uses one pair of tracks for morning and afternoon commuter train service with regularly scheduled stops at the Pincourt/Terrasse-Vaudreuil train station. Mayor Michel Bourdeau said that while he is not opposed to any proposal that would increase the safety of pedestrians and motorists who regularly cross the tracks, he’s concerned that the traffic lights may result in unnecessary traffic congestion and frustrate motorists who will have to contend with increased waiting times because of the new traffic lights.

Bourdeau said he attended a two hour meeting in late November with provincial Liberal MNA Marie-Claude Nichols and representatives from the MTQ where he presented his concerns regarding the new traffic lights and how it would adversely affect motorists that use the intersection to enter and exit the municipality.

According to Bourdeau, a similar traffic light and barrier system is in place at the Beaurepaire train station in Beaconsfield in the West Island that is apparently constantly frustrating motorists who want to access either Elm Road or Highway 20 via Woodland Avenue because the traffic lights are not always synchronized with the level crossing lights and train barrier, and that it can take several minutes for the backlog of vehicles to cross the tracks.

Bourdeau is worried that motorists travelling to and from TerrasseVaudreuil will also have to deal with backed-up traffic and that impatient drivers may decide to disregard the traffic lights especially if a red traffic light indicates that a train is approaching the level crossing but no train can be seen. Another concern is the number of trains that travel through the level crossing each day, especially the increasing number of and length of freight trains in particular.

Bourdeau said it can take anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes for a long freight train to traverse the level crossing. Representatives from the MTQ will be on hand on February 12 along with Bourdeau to monitor the traffic lights to ensure they are functioning smoothly. The MTQ will continue to assess the viability of the traffic lights for one to two months afterwards and will scrap the project, which has been pegged at around $1 million, if it’s determined that the lights have worsened the situation instead of improving traffic flow and safety, said Bourdeau.

If the lights are scrapped, the intersection will revert back to its present system of stop signs. The most viable solution to improve traffic flow would be to build either an overpass or underpass at the level crossing as part of the planned expansion of Highway 20 through Île Perrot which would provide unimpeded access into and out of Terrasse-Vaudreuil, but it could take another seven to 10 years before any work to upgrade Highway 20 begins, said Bourdeau. The MTQ has already installed signage at the level crossing to advise motorists that the traffic lights will begin operating on February 12.