Railway crossing malfunction causes rush hour backup in Barrhaven

A malfunction with the railway crossing signals in Barrhaven caused a traffic backlog at the start of Monday rush hour.

Lights were flashing but the arms were up, stopping buses from crossing the tracks

A police officer helps direct traffic as the Fallowfield rail crossing lights went on but the arm stayed up in March, 2017. (Kim Drummond/CBC)

A malfunction with the railway crossing signals on Fallowfield Road in Barrhaven caused a traffic backlog at the start of Monday morning rush hour.

The signal lights were flashing but the gates were up at the crossing near Woodroffe Avenue around 6:20 a.m., which stopped OC Transpo buses from crossing the tracks.

"Bus operators are not, under any circumstances, permitted to cross an active rail crossing where warning devices are in operation, unless directed by police and/or representatives of the railway authority," Troy Charter, OC Transpo's director operations wrote in an e-mailed statement.

When there's a traffic problem, residents are notified through the city's Twitter feed, he said. OC Transpo also let riders know about the slowdowns that affected routes 170 and 270.

The buses were able to cross the tracks again just before 7 a.m. once police were on scene to direct traffic and a Via Rail technician was working to fix the problem.

Railway signal problems nothing new

The railway crossing signals at Fallowfield Road have already faced several problems this year, malfunctioning at least three times since June 6. The last malfunction was on Oct. 25, at the height of the evening commute.

However, the problem was more pronounced in 2015 when railway crossing malfunctions were happening on an almost weekly basis. The situation improved after Via replaced the signals through the entire corridor, said Phil Landry, the city's director of traffic services.

Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder has been calling for an emergency management plan to deal with Fallowfield Road closures after a railway crossing-arm malfunction and a collision caused tie-ups two days in a row last month.

"I want to be absolutely sure in my mind that the very best that we can be in these cases is good enough for my folks," Harder said in October.

"I need to know that the systems are click-clack and that they go into effect strategically and immediately."

Landry said a report should be completed by the end of the month.