After a summer in which extensive infrastructure improvements took place around Port Hawkesbury, town council continues to deal with a number of related issues.
During last month’s Committee-of-the-Whole meeting, Port Hawkesbury Town Council wisely announced it will be installing three radar speed signs, in partnership with the Nova Scotia Community College. The town also purchased a smaller, supplementary radar.
The NSCC will purchase the signs, while the town will install them near the entrance to the NSCC Strait Area Campus on Reeves Street.
Despite the many vehicles entering or exiting the Strait Area Campus daily, Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton was correct in noting that motorists frequently speed in that area and The Reporter can confirm there have been serious collisions in that area.
Hopefully, the mayor will be proven correct that the signs will force motorists to be more mindful of their speed and can make the road and entranceway a safer place for everyone.
The town will consult with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal during the planning phase of the project to review the installation locations but the mayor said she believes the radar signs will be on the approach to the campus on Reeves Street, which is the location that makes the most sense.
While the other two issues discussed by town council surround noise complaints, they also will affect traffic flow in and around the town.
Town officials have been receiving complaints about the use of Jacobs-brand compression-release engine brakes, more commonly known as “Jake brakes,” on vehicles making their way through the town. The high-volume noise is a primarily concern at the eastern end of Reeves Street, where it intersects with Highway 4A.
The town has been in communication with residents who’ve complained in the past to figure out when the use of “Jake brakes” were occurring, so the RCMP could target those times. The complaints claim the noise occurs early in the morning, late at night and even during suppertime.
Port Hawkesbury CAO Terry Doyle and the mayor met with Port Hawkesbury Staff Sgt. Greg Redl in July who noted that Reeves Street is a 50km/h zone, so the law applies and is enforceable under the Motor Vehicle Act.
As a result, motor vehicle compliance officers can monitor the situation and enforce the law when necessary. Not just compliance officers, the town confirmed that local RCMP officers are aware of the issue and will also enforce it.
In this case, truckers will only be truly deterred from engaging these loud breaks once law enforcement holds them to account.
In an issue that is more complicated but has traffic implications, the town also received complaints about the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway, which affected one business by disrupting the overnight stay of its guests.
According to the town, one of the railway’s primary customers is moving coal to Trenton, which is a just-in-time delivery that leaves Port Hawkesbury at 3 a.m. and arrives at the Power Plant just before 6 a.m. The railroad in Port Hawkesbury operates on a 12-hour schedule between 3 a.m. and 3 p.m., to accommodate Nova Scotia Power.
Further clouding the issue is that the train is required to start blowing its whistle when they get to a certain point on the track as prescribed under the law.
Officials with the railway said the only alternative to blowing their whistle is to create a system of lights, bells and crossing guards, which comes with an estimated price tag of $70,000. The town cautioned this creates noise equal to that of a passing train, making it not much of an alternative.
In prior meetings with railway officials, the town discussed concerns around the three railway crossings, one at Philpott Street, another at MacSween Street, and the final behind Granville Green.
Since it’s only used by town employees to access land on the other side of the tracks, town council discussed applying to Transport Canada to eliminate the Philpott Street crossing but will keep the MacSween Street crossing because it remains well used.
Officials with the railway told the town that because all crossings are in close proximity, removing the Philpott Street crossing would do little to reduce the length of time they have to blow their whistle.
It appears this problem might not have a clear answer, or any answers at all, and those dealing with excessive noise will have to find their own solutions. That is unfortunate for affected residents and business owners.
On the other hand, the problems of speeding around the NSCC and using “Jake brakes” in prohibited areas do have workable solutions and can be addressed with increase signage and a tangible law enforcement presence.
While those issues are being addressed, perhaps the town can revisit the laws governing railway crossings, and speak further with the Cape Breton & Central Nova Scotia Railway, as well as Nova Scotia Power, to full investigate all and any alternatives.
While there may not be solutions apparent at the moment, that doesn’t mean something can’t be done down the road.