A bumpy ride

Crumbled asphalt sits in the snow on the shoulder of Colborne Street in Chatham between the rails of the WDC Rail crossing on that street. Fresh asphalt patch offers a temporary fix on what had been a very uneven section of roadway. Prior to the patch job, done a day after The Voice spoke with municipal officials, the broken asphalt revealed the wooden rail bed at the point of the crossing.

Drivers often curse them, but they are usually unavoidable.

We are talking about railway crossings in Chatham-Kent.

Pat Bruette, director of public works for the municipality, said there are more than 90 points in the municipality where rail lines and roadways meet. Some are paved over as old rail lines have been pulled up, some are in decent condition, while others are bone-jarring pitfalls.

Bruette said it is the responsibility of the company that owns the railroad to maintain the roadways at the crossing points. In Chatham, that means there are three companies responsible for the various crossings, VIA/CN, CP and the municipality itself with the WDC Rail. Only the first two remain active lines.

While the municipality is expected to pay a portion of the repair costs, Bruette said he couldn’t authorize repairs at the VIA/CN or CP crossings.

“For example, I could not send a crew over to stop and patch holes. It’s illegal,” he said. “I can’t demand repair work, but they’re usually pretty good. But it usually comes down to budget.”

The composition of the crossing impacts how well it can stand up over time. The amount of traffic – on the road and on the rail line – as well as the weight of such traffic, also has an impact.

“Some of the concrete crossings, they’ve lasted longer than the asphalt or rubber crossings,” Bruette said. “If you get seven or eight years out of a crossing, you’re doing well.”

When The Chatham Voice contacted Bruette about the issue, it brought up the state of the crossing for WDC Rail on Colborne Street in Chatham, just east of Duke Street. At the time of the call, the asphalt between the steel rails, which sit atop wood, had broken up, making for a rather rough crossing. But the next day, a crew had gone out and patched up the crossing.

Bruette said with the WDC line, although it is municipal property, he is hesitant to perform any expensive fixes on the crossings as the line is up for sale. It’s possible the steel, gravel bed and anything else that is potentially useful will be sold off.

If the rails are ripped up, the municipality will pave over the crossings.

Council formed WDC Rail to hold the assets of the line, which it bought from CSX Transportation. CXS notified the municipality that it was discontinuing rail service in 2006 and council acquired the line for $3.6 million in 2013.

Another rail crossing discussed with Bruette was the CP crossing on Prince Albert Road just north of Longwoods Road. He said he hasn’t heard of any public complaints about that crossing, but vehicles have to slow down to cross that very uneven section of roadway.

“The problem you have there is it’s such a raised crossing,” Bruette said, as the rail bed sits higher than the neighbouring land. Prince Albert rises from the north and the south to cross it.





  1. You say CSX stopped service in 2006o and sold their lines. So why then do I see CSX hi rail maintenance trucks around the area? There’s often one here in Ridgetown.


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