A Replacement For the Fraser River Rail Bridge?

Interesting article in the Vancouver Sun that Surreyai??i??s light rail bid could have edge in federal funding over Vancouverai??i??s Broadway subway line.

What is of more importance for Rail for the Valley is the replacement of the decrepit Fraser river rail bridge which lies in the shadows of the Patullo Bridge. The present single track Fraser river rail bridge must be replaced by a minimum three track span to cater to three railways, Amtrak, and future RftV tramtrain service from Vancouver to Chilliwack.

Zwei has always advocated for a combined road/rail bridge to replace both the Patullo and Fraser Rial bridges and now with Federal financial input, our regional politicians must vigorously advocate for it.

Then how about some federal dollars, say $500 million or soAi?? and invest in a start-up Vancouver to Chilliwack Interurban service using diesel tramtrains, using the new rail bridge. In other words, a new TramTrain service to connect all those Torry ridings in the Fraser Valley to Vancouver, so people can easily access sporting venues; medical facilities; YVR; etc.

Simple and affordable is the hallmark of a good transit project and a new combined road/rail bridge could do just that..

Surreyai??i??s light rail bid could have edge in federal funding over Vancouverai??i??s Broadway subway line

Conservative-friendly Metro suburbs may have advantage over Vancouver for new project dollars

By Peter O’Neil, Vancouver SunJanuary 21, 2014

Foreground and lower in the photo, the 100-year-old railway swing bridge in Westminster, which could end up on Ottawaai??i??s infrastructure list. Behind it are the Pattullo Bridge and the SkyTrain bridge.

Photograph by: ian lindsay, Vancouver Sun

OTTAWA ai??i?? B.C. municipal leaders are gearing up for an announcement on how the Harper government plans to spend its $14-billion, 10-year, Building Canada Fund that starts April 1.

Metro leaders have a pretty good idea what Ottawa wonai??i??t fund.

The Harper government has signalled disdain for having federal taxpayers subsidize projects like the proposed new $350-million Vancouver Art Gallery.

Instead, look for projects that play into the Conservative focus on economic growth and international trade ai??i?? bridges, tunnels, other transportation projects, sewage treatment.

Politics could play a role, given the addition of five new House of Commons seats in the communities around Vancouver. The Conservatives hope to win those seats as part of their plan to secure another majority in 2015.

That means Surreyai??i??s request for federal help for $1.8 billion in light rapid transit could have an edge over Vancouverai??i??s bid for a $2.4-billion subway along the Broadway corridor (in a relatively Tory-unfriendly city).

ai???In the end, thereai??i??s only so much money and thereai??i??s always somebody who will go first and someone who will go second,ai??? said Vancouver councillor Raymond Louie, who is also vice-chair of Metro Vancouver and second vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Municipalities.

Louie said, for instance, that proponents of the new art gallery may have trouble finding a suitable federal funding mechanism.

“I’m not sure where the money would be pulled from,” he said.

Louie said heai??i??s confident, after discussions with federal ministers, that merit will trump politics when the federal government chooses projects to fund.

A spokeswoman for Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel, Michele-Jamali Paquette, would only say Tuesday that the government will make an announcement ai???soonai??? on how the Building Canada Fund will work.

Of the $14 billion, $10 billion is expected to go, on a per capita basis, to provinces and territories for ai???highways, public transit, drinking water, waste water, connectivity and broadband, and innovationai??? projects, according to the federal budget.

The other $4 billion will be for projects of ai???national significance.ai??? B.C. ai??i?? as the transportation corridor serving the governmentai??i??s Asia-focused export strategy ai??i?? is expected to get at least a per capita share.

Among the big-ticket items that could receive federal funding in the Lower Mainland:

ai??? The proposed $560-million Lions Gate sewage treatment plant is probably the least contentious, as it has the support of all members of the Metro Vancouver government.

ai??? Replacement of the 110-year-old rail bridge next to the Pattullo Bridge in New Westminster, projected to cost more than $100 million, is expected to get serious consideration given the growing profile of rail transport and rail safety.

ai??? Premier Christy Clarkai??i??s proposed bridge to replace the George Massey tunnel is estimated at $3 billion, and Louie said there are concerns among municipalities that it will drain money away from municipal priorities.

Bickering aside, Canadaai??i??s increasingly influential big-city mayors have to be at least somewhat satisfied in succeeding, after years of lobbying, in getting a commitment to stable long-term funding.

Including the Building Canada Fund, Ottawaai??i??s infrastructure program is worth $53.5 billion over $10 years. If spent on a per capita basis, about $6 billion would come to B.C.

Another major part of the program is the $32.2 billion Community Improvement Fund. Two thirds of it comes from the gas tax fund that funnels $2 billion a year to provinces and territories. The federal government, according to the 2013 budget, wants this money targeted towards ai???highways, local and regional airports, short-line rail, short-sea shipping, disaster mitigation, broadband and connectivity, brownfield redevelopment, culture, tourism, sport, and recreation.ai??? Specific decisions on which projects get money is in the hands of the provinces and municipalities.

Most of the remaining money, $10.4 billion over 10 years, comes from the GST rebate for municipalities program for general infrastructure needs.

While the Conservatives boast that it is the largest infrastructure investment in history, the parliamentary budget officer did a report last spring that suggested the increases are modest compared to past spending. The report, which found that infrastructure spending peaked at $5.2 billion in 2013-14, said it would take $45 billion over the next 10 years just to maintain that spending ai??i?? a figure marginally less than $47.5 billion committed in the 2013 budget.



10 Responses to “A Replacement For the Fraser River Rail Bridge?”
  1. eric chris says:

    If it exists, my preference is a tramtrain run on LNG rather than diesel to reduce particulate matter and noise levels in urban settings. Surrey really has to be the priority for rail transit (LRT). Not much is gained with a subway to UBC. Residents in Point Grey and Kits don’t want the crime and filth that sky train brings.

    There is plenty of unused bus capacity that can be better utilized to move transit users from Commercial Drive to UBC. Capacity is being sacrificed to save a few minutes with the express buses. Express buses only save time during a few peak hours for some users but cost many other users transferring to express buses time – all day. If the express buses are eliminated, capacity can be almost doubled and service is improved for all the transit users who are being passed by the express buses.

    Does any other city in Canada run express buses until 2:30 am on top of regular buses? This is asinine and wastes millions of dollars annually. You don’t save time with express buses at 2:30 am when the express buses make the same number of stops as the regular buses.

  2. Haveacow says:

    Believe it when you see it guys! It just doesn’t make sense that they will provide any money for any projects until your referendum has been completed and the results fully digested. This is one of the problems of referendums that are about transit funding because, historically they tend to kill all planned funding of anything transit related up to a year and a half before and after the vote. Not just big announcements but the many desperately needed little ones that fund important behind the seens projects that keep transit services moving, regardless of how the vote actually goes. God help you if the vote sparks a reset or changing of how transit services are delivered you may never see any of that money and could loose up to 5 years of normal planning activities as a result.

    Zweisystem replies: The referendum I strictly a SkyTrain vote as TransLink is designing LRT to fail as they have done twice before. They need more money to fund the subway and they have closed all the schools and hospitals they can. No one will admit that planning strictly for light-metro is very expensive.

    As an aside, the new spin the SkyTrain Lobby are using is that; “LRT is not reliable” and the SkyTrain types are using that refrain every time they can.

  3. Haveacow says:

    Actually Eric, the TTC runs the 190 series rocket routes all day until 1:30 am and 7 days a week. To be fair they are only on the busiest routes, and have names like, The Airport Rocket, The Scarborough Rocket, The Finch Rocket and so on. They usually are supplements to busy surface routes however, they are very frequent all day and most of the night as well as one does mirror the proposed route of the Sheppard Subway (Scarborough Rocket). But the TTC makes sure there is a real need for them and they have all the same financial limits that all other routes have on them. This is why the TTC has consistently one of North America’s highest fare to cost ratios, last year fares covered 75% of operating costs and the lowest per capita operating subsidy around the continent. Although it sounds impressive, it really financially handcuffs the entire operation each year.

  4. Haveacow says:

    Zwei, I know you have been at this a long time and I like you, see many of the same major operation issues that leaves most rail people with the same sinking feeling about Skytrain. Lets face it the system and technology have not aged well compared to other rail modes. The problem with Referendums in the Canadian context that are financial in nature like yours in BC is that, they are not necessarily legally binding, if major functional changes occur under federal law, a system wide forensic audit happens. Operationally that means no major capital projects can take place till the audit is complete and the functional change is studied, approved and enacted. As you know already, there is no guarantee that the main issues as you see them regarding Translink will be dealt with in the audit. This is because audits are done by financial people not operational transit people. Minimum you loose a year with the audit, and the time it takes to change and restart the with the new transit operation. You also have no guarantee that you still get what you want at the end of the process.

    It is way too easy for people to say “no” in a referendum and you still have the same issues when it is all over that lead to the referendum in the first place. How many years will this referendum and its aftermath take away just from the functional programs and funding needed to run the service, let alone major issues like the rapid transit mode of planned and unplanned future Lines? This is why I have always believed changing the organization from the inside is always a better choice. Yes, it takes longer but in the end it is more satisfying because you and your organization/website has changed the internal conversation of your transit service, in your favor. It took over 35 years to change the minds and policies of Ottawa’s local government, OC Transpo, senior city staff and a big chunk of the population of the city to get away from nothing but BRT program and build rail where it made sense. The part I played was very small and many greater people before me started this process and many people after me will continue this process. Its far too easy to say chuck the whole thing and start over but, if you are successful this way, you really do start from scratch and there is no guarantee you will like the result and may have very little say in the new process. In the end patience is the word and lots of it is needed.

  5. eric chris says:

    TransLink does not have a funding problem. TransLink has a very bad spending problem.

    In Metro Edmonton, having a population of about 1.25 million in 2012, the operating budget for transit was $309.5 million (see page 314 of the following link):



    Homeowners in Edmonton pay property taxes (about $200 to $300 annually) to completely fund transit; whereas, homeowners in Metro Vancouver pay a myriad of taxes (gas, hydro, parking… property) to TransLink, and all these taxes cost many homeowners who drive about $1,000 annually:


    With double the population of Metro Edmonton, transit should cost about $619 million annually to operate here but costs about $1,400 million annually (excluding $100 million for roads) to operate here. TransLink maintains that transit with sky train is the “best” and less expensive than inferior LRT, such as the LRT used in Edmonton.

    Fine, where did the missing $781 million ($1,400 – $619 million) go in 2013? More funding for the swindlers at TransLink? Get real.


  6. zweisystem says:

    here is the problem the way I see it.

    Conservatively, we are paying about twice the cost per km. of LRT, building with Skytrain, thus the grandiose transit planning done by TransLink is based on SkyTrain. TransLink designs LRT as SkyTrain, except that it purposely designs it to operate smaller trains or in single vehicles to deliberately reduce advertized capacity. We also must remember that each rapid transit line was forced on the region by the provincial government and cost be damned.
    1) The now called Expo Line was forced on the regional authority by the old Social Credit Government and a Vancouver to New Westminster ALRT line was built instead of a much longer Vancouver to Whalley (Surrey)/Lougheed mall and Richmond Centre. The next phase was to create light rail networks in Coquitlam, Surrey, and Richmond.
    2) ALRT was so Expensive, a large group of planners and people championed for LRT on the Broadway/Lougheed R/T project, yet the NDP government with promises of major ALRT sales in Asia again forced the now ART on what is now called the Millennium Line. To get Vancouver and the GVRD on Board building with ART, they created TransLink and promised to pay two thirds of SkyTrain only construction West of Commercial Drive. Ultimately, ART was so expensive, they could not build the line to the Tri-Cities.
    3) Despite planning to the contrary, the BC Liberals wanted a “showcase” P-3 rapid transit project and with finical inducements from YVR, who wanted a metro only connection to Vancouver, again forced a ART decision, that is until, Campbell and the BC Liberals found out that SkyTrain was a proprietary railway and no way a real P-3 could take place, so they opted for a charade bidding process for the now named Canada Line. SNC Lavalin was two of the original consortiums bidding and soon Alstom dropped out, soon followed by Siemens, who called the process a fix. LRT was not even allowed to be mentioned during the process, so in the end a SNC/Bombardier consortium bid against a SNC/ Hyundai consortium and the SNC/Hyundai consortium won the bid. Problem was, they bid way too low and the scope of the Canada Line was so reduced that the mini-metro was soon at capacity after it opened.
    4) The Evergreen Line is the unfinished portion of the Millennium Line .

    It took 28 years to fulfill and $9 billion the original GVRD LRT plans, which were to cost less than $1 billion.

    The problem now, is our transit planning is still based on SkyTrain, which means Langley will be connected by 2040 and Vancouver will get a SkyTrain subway to Arbutus. That is the real plan, one very expensive SkyTrain line per decade and the province has sold the province bare to fund the previously built mini-metros, so the public must ante up to pay the bill. Surrey’s LRT planning is a mere sideshow, as the government and the NDP and TransLink still favour SkyTrain.

    So voting no in the referendum may put a stop to this planning nonsense and just may force the government and Translink to rethink their transit planning.

  7. eric chris says:

    I hear you and can’t comment on the Toronto express buses until 1:30 am which is far better than 2:30 am, in any case. In Vancouver on the 99 B-Line route, I certainly can comment and have the perfect vantage point overlooking three trolleybus routes and the 99 B-Line route.

    First, the 99 B-Line operates every 15 minutes (this frequency is extreme) late at night until 2:30 am. The fact that the three trolleybus routes and the articulated diesel buses on the 99 B-Line routes are ghost runs with barely a soul on board late at night – bothers no one at TransLink which is broke and operating on credit while our dopey mayor is crying for more taxes to fund TransLink. I guess a few million dollars squandered on a redundant 99 B-Line express route is nothing when you’re pissing away billions of dollars on sky train. The express 99 diesel buses operating on the otherwise zero emission electric trolleybus routes also contribute five billion grams of CO2 annually but our Green mayor doesn’t seem to notice.

    While I’m typing this at 1 am, the 99 B-Line express has just passed drunken fools waiting for the No. 14 trolleybus and they are screaming their fool heads-off and vandalizing the bus shelter (voicing their displeasure) – idiots who TransLink serves for almost free with their $30 monthly bus pass. That’s OK, taxpayers will pick up the tab for the new bus shelter.


    As I mentioned, the time saved on the express 99 B-Line service is zero minutes after 10 pm, zip. Along Broadway, there are 40 to 50 traffic lights over the 13.4 km route and all the time is spent stopping at the lights. Almost nobody is waiting at bus stops and the number of bus stops is irrelevant – regular buses are just as fast as express buses.

    Second, the express route is primarily being used to circumvent the use of trolleybuses which someone at TransLink has decided are too hard to operate. Fire this person or the CEO if nobody is willing to take credit. Along Broadway, taking into account the capacity of the articulated and regular buses, diesel buses comprise 75% of the capacity on a trolleybus route! Does Toronto run diesel buses on its trolleybuses, too? Unlikely.

    Finally, and this is what really makes my blood boil, TransLink knows full well that the trolleybuses are just as fast as express buses during late off-peak hours. So, TransLink fragments the No.9 trolleybus route late at night. The No. 9 trolleybus covers the eastern section of Broadway and the No. 14 trolleybus is brought all the way from East Vancouver for the western part of Broadway! How efficient. The bums at TransLink are asking for more money and just can’t figure out how to make their system any less crappy than it is, apparently. Anyhow that’s enough for tonight. Time to put in my ear plugs and get to sleep – another two empty 99 B-Lines just passed, one heading east and one heading west.

  8. eric chris says:


    In the morning looking out the kitchen window, the first thing that I noticed was the TransLink road services white van (Mercedes Benz, nothing but the best for TransLink!) parked beside the bus shelter that was being thrashed last night. Out of curiosity, is “Mercedes Benz” the standard issue service vehicle in Toronto (there doesn’t appear to be any major structural damage to the bus shelter)?

    Second thing noticed, TransLink is not running trolleybuses on the No. 14 trolleybus route, as usual this weekend, and is running diesel buses today, Saturday. This confounds me. Once you’ve sunk the cost into trolleybuses which consume very little power and are inexpensive to operate with no adverse environmental and social impacts, does it make any sense to operate diesel buses consuming very expensive diesel fuel and having dire health consequences for residents exposed to the soot from the diesel buses?

    I’ve never been able to get a straight answer from TransLink or the City of Vancouver on the use of diesel buses on the trolleybuses routes on weekends, about 25% to 50% of the time. Do you have any insight into it? I suspect, TransLink must take the trolleybuses out of service for maintenance and doesn’t have enough spare trolleybus capacity – that was paid for by taxpayers but likely used for other things, sky train expensense, perhaps.

    TransLink is run by clowns who show up at work to just collect a paycheck. It amazes me that we are even talking about more funding for the bunglers at TransLink when the proper discussion is how to reduce costs with trams or LRT and how to dissolve TransLink. I truly hope that Mayor Watts of Surrey splits from TransLink to bring the house of cards crashing down at TransLink.

  9. Haveacow says:

    Yes traffic lights are a pain when there are that many. As for the noise I sympathize, our house is just down the block from a house downrented to some obnoxious University Students who liked to party every Friday and Saturday night till 2 or 3 am. Not the neighbours you want during a warm summer night, when you have 3 young children all under the age of 7 (2 of them autistic and hyper sensitive to sound as well as naturally light sleepers).

    As a former Torontonian, I remember when they got rid of the T’s (trolley buses) back in 1993-95. They used leased Edmonton trolleys for awhile but it was too expensive to buy a whole fleet of new ones and the TTC let the overhead go as well. The whole area had been hit hard by the recession of the early 90′s and the TTC just couldn’t afford them any longer. The coaches had been built in the early 50′s, completely rebuilt in the early 70′s but by the 90′s they were just too old to rehab again.

    Just from what you described to me actually sounds like Translink may be short of serviceable trolleys at night. Possibly a fleet wide maintenance issue or maybe a scheduling/unit availability conflict because the majority of maintenance having to be done at Night? When were these trolleys purchased? Maybe there is need for a midlife refit? The other thing there maybe a current limitation on certain points in the route due to transformer issues (transformers are certainly the dirty little secret of electric transit and agencies sure don’t like to admit when these things have problems). As always there is the possibility of overhead maintenance issues and a budgetary problem dealing with them.

    Zweisystem replies: It has always been the practice of TransLink and BC Transit to run as few trolleybuses as possible on weekends. So most weekend trolleybus routes are run by diesels. The trolleybus system is quite expensive to operate. In 1991 the operating subsidies were $43.7 million, compared with $90.5 million for the entire diesel bus fleet. By comparison, the Expo Line was subsidized by $157.6 million, more than the electric and diesel buses combined. The figures come from the GVRD’s The cost of Transporting People in the B.C. Lower Mainland.

  10. Haveacow says:

    The Ontarians With Disabilities Act of the early 90′s forced all new or rehabilitated surface transit vehicles to be low floor and the Ontario government was not going grandfather the TTC ‘s trolley bus fleet, this was the final nail in the trolley bus system coffin as well as the trolley bus fleet in Hamilton as well.