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Monday, May 16, 2011

The thing of it is, it isn't true.

Five tracks level crossing in downtown San Diego.
As I have said before, Randy Richmond is a poet. On Friday he posted almost a poem, The Thing of It Is, a visual and verbal ode to the rail system dividing London and messing with its traffic patterns. He tells us, "Only small towns have downtown railway crossings." 

Huh? Where do these ideas come from? Level crossing are not uncommon in even very large cities.

Last summer I spent six weeks bumping across the United States and Canada in my old British roadster. Morgan roadsters have a notoriously hard ride. I joke my 43-year-old car still has its original shocks because the damn suspension doesn't do any work.

When I'm doing extra bumping, such as when I'm bumping over level crossings, I notice. And I noticed lots of them in both large cities and small towns. And I cursed every single one of them.

Even a well maintained 5 track crossing, such as the one I found using Google Street Views, can be a teeth jarring experience for a Morgan driver. And where exactly is this level crossing? Why, it's in downtown San Diego, California. Not exactly a small, boring, backwater of a place. (Photo at top of post.)

Note how Montreal's Ave. Clanranald is broken by a rail line.
With 53 level crossings, London actually may have earned some bragging rights. Unlike many, many towns and cities, I haven't checked this thoroughly, but from the high number it seems possible that London boldly builds level crossings rather than simply allowing train tracks to cut streets in two.

Roundabout/Overpass: Amazing, innovative but that's London.
And as Randy mentions, London just built a new overpass and it's a $16.3 million doozy. This baby is an amazing, innovative solution to a decades old traffic snafu at the intersection of Hale Street, Trafalgar Road and the CN tracks. The City of London floated a roundabout above the main CN Rail lines into London. Wow!

Have you ever seen anything like this? In North America, how many roundabouts are also overpasses? Even naysayers like me have to admit it's a pretty cool solution.

(In the interest of accuracy, I must say lots of places have done away with many of their level crossings or, like Brantford Ontario, never have had them at all on certain major roads. Admittedly, there is tension between railroad right-of-ways and the city streets they cross, but it is not a problem unique to London.)

Level crossing are common in Windsor, a city two hours west of London.

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