A freight train rolls along the waterfront during the White Rock Sea Festival.

A freight train rolls along the waterfront during the White Rock Sea Festival.

White Rock mayor rekindles rail-track push

Long process to relocate trains begins with first step, Baldwin says

White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin says it’s time to get the goal of relocating the waterfront railway back on track.

And a motion to be considered this evening, asking that staff be directed to initiate the process, is simply the first step in what will be a years-long exercise, he said.

“This has been sort of like our long-term goal,” Baldwin told PAN Friday, of wanting to reroute dangerous goods from the seaside line.

Initial discussion of the issue last summer was triggered by the devastating derailment in Lac Mégantic, Que. It was intensified by attention to the deteriorating condition of the Little Campbell rail bridge on Semiahmoo First Nation land.

While the focus on the goal was sidelined by a series of safety-related orders from Transport Canada to the city and railway owner BNSF – following the death of a jogger on East Beach tracks a week after the Quebec tragedy  – Baldwin said the recent decision to green-light a new coal-transfer facility in Surrey spurred him to push the issue to the forefront.

“We’ve come to a conclusion (on the Transport Canada orders), now we can turn our attention to how to deal with the dangerous goods, which is to not have them at all,” he said. “What changed for me was the decision by Port Metro Vancouver to allow the Fraser Surrey Docks’ proposal to go through. That just kind of crystalized it – this is not going to go away.”

(Steps to abide by the Transport Canada orders are ongoing but so far include the installation of bollards at the West Beach boat launch and fencing of the west side of Bayview Park; chainlink meshing is to go up along the length of the promenade handrailing this fall; at-grade pedestrian crossings are to be leveled; and, ultimately, flashing lights and gates are to be installed.)

The $15-million Fraser Surrey Docks facility has been the source of much controversy since it was first proposed in September 2012. Once built, it will take at least four million tonnes per year of U.S. coal by train through White Rock and Surrey and send it by barge down the Fraser River to Texada Island for reloading to ocean-going ships.

It is expected to significantly increase train traffic through the Semiahmoo Peninsula – potentially by 320 trains in the first year alone – but Baldwin said Friday that when the new FSD facility is operational, “we might be looking at an extra eight trains a day.”

At a rail-safety forum hosted by the city in July, attendees heard that everything from crude oil to chlorine is already being transported along the waterfront.

Plans to replace the Massey Tunnel with a bridge – a move expected to increase shipping capacities on the Fraser River – only further the logic of moving the tracks, Baldwin said.

“You can see the future coming, and it’s not looking like less trains.”

Last year, Baldwin estimated the costs of moving the line at $350-400 million, not including any work south of the border.

In August 2013, staff from White Rock and the City of Surrey began researching the idea’s feasibility and preparing a business case.

Following a joint community forum with Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts in November, critics said it would simply move the problem from one neighbourhood to another. The following month, Surrey Coun. Mary Martin later said track realignment “will not happen… in the foreseeable future.”

A council resolution is needed to get the ball rolling again, Baldwin said, and he hopes counterparts in Surrey will follow suit. Steps to follow will include getting all of the stakeholders involved and approaching the Ministry of Transportation for approval.

“It’s going to be a long process, but it has to start somewhere and that’s a good first step.

“We have nothing to lose by it.”

 

Just Posted

A Grade 8 class at L.A. Matheson Secondary. March 2021. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
B.C.’s return-to-school plan good, but Surrey teachers hope there is room for adjustments

Surrey school district to receive $1.76M of the $25.6M provincial pandemic-related funding

Surrey Fire Service battled a dock fire along the Fraser River late Friday night (June 18). It was on Musqueam Drive, near Industrial Road, around 10:45 p.m. (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
Fire engulfs pier on Surrey side of the Fraser River

Pier has reportedly been unused for a long time

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed teen facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read