Wednesday, January 15, 1930 The Globe (Toronto) Page 4, col. 1

Removing grade crossings.

Announcement by the Dominion Railway Commission of its inability to order the so-called northwest grade separation in Toronto because of the state of the Grade Crossing Fund invites the question as to whether the time has not arrived for Parliament to reconsider the entire problem of grade separations.

The popularity attained by the automobile and the much greater attention given to road improvement in the interests of traffic since the Grade Crossing Fund was established in 1909 have created a situation not in the prospect twenty years ago, but one which is certain to make growing demands on the Railway Board in the future. The change in the state of affairs has been met by amended legislation, but the fact that urgent improvements have to be denied or delayed for years shows that the problem is not being met adequately.

Fatalities at grade crossings are increasing throughout the country. It is admitted that the only satisfactory way of overcoming them is by separating grades. Yet the Board is obliged to meet scores of applications for this work by offering makeshift substitutes, such as gates, bells, lights and wigwag signals. Is it reasonable to expect this sort of regulation to be applied fairly generally to crossings which are becoming busier every year?

As a rule, the grade elimination is sought by the municipality. The Railway Board has to consider, however, not only the willingness of the interested municipality to bear its share of the expense, but the burden on the railway and the Board's own fund. The latter depends on the generosity of Parliament, and it is clear that its condition is an important factor in the decision reached, as in the case of Toronto's northwest grades. Through the fund Parliament has a check on the Commission's rulings. This may be necessary, but it may be open to question whether the arrangement as it exists is in the best interests of safety.

In other words, the Federal Treasury and the municipalities and railways divide the expense of grade crossing elimination under Dominion legislation. The fund was started with a provision that it should bear 20 per cent. of the cost of the work, subject to a maximum of $5,000. This was later changed to 25 per cent. and a maximum of $15,000, and then to 40 per cent. with a maximum of $25,000, the maximum being increased to $100,000 at a later date. The tendency has been, therefore, to make the Federal share of the cost greater, while the responsibility for ordering works is on a Federal Commission. Under the circumstances the Railway Board cannot always act with a free hand, based alone on the merits of the case as shown by the evidence.

Since the fund was created it has been drawn on to the extent of $1,970,000. In the same period the railways have been required to spend $7,815,000 and the municipalities $5,057,000. Demands on the fund at present, it is said, will bring it close to exhaustion, leaving at the same time a great amount of necessary work undone. If the grade crossing problem were attached with the aggressiveness needed, these expenditures would be small compared to the outlay required. Sooner or later it will have to be met in a much larger way, and Parliament will be confronted with the task of determining whether the cost is apportioned properly under the existing scheme, which very frequently involves an outlay of 40 per cent. by the Dominion and 30 per cent. each by the railway and the municipality.

The theory behind the creation of the fund is that protective works are in the general interest. This holds true today as twenty years ago; but today, more than then, necessity exists for facilitating traffic movements. This might be considered with fairness in future discussion of cost allocation. There is also ample reason for viewing the obligations of the Provinces in the matter. Many of the highways are now under Provincial control; and in such cases should not safety be primarily of Provincial concern? Grade separation will be required on many of these roads in the near future. If the Dominion Grade Crossing Fund were relieved of demands in these instances it could be used more advantageously in other cases where the obligation on the Dominion is clearer.

By some means more money will have to be obtained for grade crossing elimination. Many millions of it will be necessary—from railways, municipalities, Provinces or the Dominion, or from all combined. There is room for new consideration of the whole problem at Ottawa.