Federal government will spend $55 million over three years on rail safety

Transport Minister Marc Garneau makes an announcement concerning rail safety, Wednesday, October 12, 2016 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

MONTREAL - The federal government is making about $55 million available over three years to improve rail safety across country, Transport Minister Marc Garneau said Wednesday.

Projects eligible for funding include the installation of flashing lights and bells at railway crossings and the construction of full pedestrian overpasses, he said.

The money is earmarked for projects on federal rail property, along rail lines, at crossings and in the form of public education campaigns.

After 46 people died last year on federally regulated railways, Garneau said "we need to do more to make grade-level crossings safer."

He said the federal government is responsible for roughly 23,000 railway crossings across the country.

Provinces, municipalities and other local authorities will be able to request funding for projects, construction on which can begin in 2017.

Garneau says individual citizens, indigenous groups and non-profit groups are also welcome to apply for funding.

Project applications can be made on Transport Canada's website.

"Any work that improves safety of a public crossing — including closure — will be eligible for federal funding." he said.

Up to $52 million over three years is set aside for construction projects and what he called "infrastructure technology and research," such as detection equipment and on-board data recorders.

Another $3.4 million over two years will be spent on raising public awareness about issues related to rail safety.

The roughly $55 million is part of a $143-million transportation safety fund the Liberals set aside in the 2016 budget.

Garneau's cash announcement comes a few months after rail companies and Ottawa agreed to phase out earlier than previously scheduled.the use of aging DOT-111 tankers cars for the transportation of crude oil.

The minister said by Nov. 1, DOT-111s — the same type of tanker involved in the 2013 Lac-Megantic rail disaster that killed 47 people — will no longer be allowed to carry crude oil on railroads in Canada.

Garneau said Wednesday that, to his knowledge, the new timeline for phasing out the aging tankers is on schedule.

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