Environmental Regulatory Compliance for
Highway Development and Operations

Canadian Transportation Agency (CTA)

About the Canadian Transportation Agency

The Canadian Transportation Agency is responsible under the provisions of the Canada Transportation Act for attaining the objectives of the national transportation policy (described in Section 5, Canada Transportation Act) as they relate to safe railway operation. Among other duties, the CTA is responsible for resolving issues arising between railway companies under its jurisdiction and other interested parties such as utility companies, road authorities or landowners.

The Process for Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure Projects

The Rail, Navigable Waters Coordinator, Highway Engineering Branch, MoT, (RNW Coordinator) is responsible for coordinating the referral processes for provincially- and federally-regulated railways regarding construction or alteration activities.

If the proposed work will cross or disturb an existing provincially or federally regulated railway, the proponent should ask the RNW Coordinator to clarify or confirm the potential applicability of the Canada Transportation Act, and related referral process requirements.

The plans and site profile for any federal railway crossing work requires an agreement between the Railway and MoT. The agreement is filed with the Canadian Transportation Agency which issues an Order authorizing works, as indicated in the agreement, to be undertaken pursuant to Section 101 of the Canada Transportation Act.

If an agreement cannot be reached with the Railway, MoT may apply to CTA for authorization to construct a suitable road crossing.  Under Section 5 of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, when an agreement cannot be reached with the Railway, an assessment of the environmental impacts of any rail infrastructure project must be completed before the Canadian Transportation Agency can issue a ruling.  (Note, crossing transfers and cost sharing disputes requiring a CTA ruling do not require an environmental assessment).1

The RNW Coordinator will conduct preliminary discussions with the railway to discuss options and facility provision. An Application Layout drawing (General Arrangement) is prepared by MoT or the design consultant as soon as the general details of the work are known. Generally, the drawing is prepared early in the detailed design stage.

The RNW Coordinator will submit an application package to the Railway for inclusion in an agreement between the Ministry and the Railway and to issue notices in accordance with the Railway Safety Act.

The RNW Coordinator will contact project management personnel about project environmental issues and/or completion of the “Environmental Assessment Information Sheet, Rail Infrastructure Project”, if required.  


The following procedures have been developed by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure to ensure that the environmental component of the design satisfies the Ministry’s environmental standards and also complies with section 101 of the Canada Transportation Act:

  • Review engineering reports and plans of the proposed structure for environmental implications and impacts, in association with environmental agencies.
  • Ensure that environmental considerations have been correctly incorporated in the Application Layout drawing (General Arrangement) prepared by MoT or the design consultant.
  • Complete the environmental assessment component of the application, if required. The environmental assessment component includes:
    • description and purpose of the work;
    • identification of the construction activities and type of equipment to be used during construction;
    • description of existing environmental conditions at the site;
    • identification of environmental sensitivities during construction, operation, maintenance and decommissioning, and proposed mitigation measures;
    • reference to environmental studies and public consultations that have been undertaken for the project;
    • environmental agency approvals (Department of Fisheries and Oceans and Ministry of Environment) and other federal, provincial or municipal permits for the project, as required; and
    • description of the construction schedule.

If environmental approvals are pending, note on the Environmental Assessment Information Report that approvals will be forwarded when received.

  • Send the complete package to the RNW Coordinator for inclusion in the application to the CTA if agreement with the Railway cannot be reached.
  • Notify the RNW Coordinator, in writing, of the start date of construction activities that encroach on or disturb an existing provincially- or federally-regulated railway, prior to commencement of the work.   

Time Frame

For simple crossing (re)construction that requires no action or work by the Railway other than approval, and where all costs are being borne by the Ministry, the estimated time frame required for the approval process is 3 months.

For crossing (re)construction that requires action or work by the Railway and/or railway signal work, the estimated time frame required for the approval process is 5 months.

For crossing (re)construction that requires grants and/or cost sharing, the estimated time frame required for the approval process is at least 6 months.

If agreement with the Railway cannot be reached, and application to the CTA is required, the estimated time frame required for a decision to be rendered is 4-6 months from the time the application is submitted to the CTA.


Canadian Transportation Agency

Canada Transportation Act – C-10.4-(1996,c.10) and Regulations 

Railway Safety Act – R-4.2-(R.S.,1985,c.32(4th Supp.)) and Regulations 

Railway Relocation and Crossing Act – R-4 and Regulations

Provincial Railway Act

Provincial Railway Safety Act


1 Environmental assessments are not required for railway works on Provincially Chartered Railways to receive approvals under the Provincial Railway Act.  Environmental assessments are not required by the CTA if agreements can be reached with the railway and CTA is not required to issue an Order or Decision.



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