By George Brown
After decades on the books and a couple of years in planning and construction, Ponoka’s new 57th Avenue railway crossing is now open to traffic.
Municipal leaders involved with the project and representatives of the construction team were on hand Jan. 12 when Mayor Larry Henkelman — with a CP train chugging up the tracks behind him — cut the ribbon to declare the crossing open.
“It’s been in the plans for a long time,” Henkelman said. “It’s finally come to fruition.”
Grading and paving of the roadway, and installation of the railway crossing apparatus was done last fall but the opening was delayed pending the Canadian Pacific Railway’s inspection and approval.
The northern crossing ties 49th and 50th Streets and “provides safe transportation network to our northeast industrial park and the County of Ponoka,” Henkelman explained.
“This roadway project is the first phase of the town’s dangerous goods and truck route that will direct all large truck traffic out to Highway 2A.
“The 57th Avenue crossing project included the cost of new roadway from 49th Street to 50th Street complete with pedestrian access and automatic warning systems including gates, bells and flashing lights as required by Transport Canada.”
Henkelman said Ponoka County contributed to the project by closing Township Road 432 east of Highway 2A, allowing the CPR the opportunity to expand its railcar layover capacity in Ponoka.
Reeve Gordon Svenningsen said Ponoka County was proud to play a part in improving traffic in the northeast area of town that would benefit industrial park businesses as well as rural residents.
Alberta Transportation provided half the cost of the $1.7 million project with a resource road grant. Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ray Prins said the government wants to support projects that involve municipalities, private enterprise and the province working together.
“It’s great when communities and private business can get together,” added CPR road manager Reg Reimche. “This greatly improved our capacity here. It’s greatly improved the safety of the trains, the (motorists) and the pedestrians.”
In a sign of friendship and co-operation, the first two vehicles through the new crossing were Ponoka County and Town of Ponoka public works vehicles.