South Surrey and Whiterock’s Fifteen Year Itch

Every fifteen years or so, the good burghers of Whiterock and South Surrey agitate for the removal of the BNSF tracks that run on the shoreline from the international boarder to Crescent Beach. Not going to happen.

Though safety is the supposed concern, Zwei thinks that property values is the real reason as people living adjacent to the tracks wanting the line moved and of course, at someone elses expense.

The question no one will answers of course is the cost of relocating the, includingAi?? building a 6 km or more tunnel. The cost for the proposed diversion would be over $1 billion and not the claimed $350-450 million, by the time the project was completed. If a high speed passenger service is envisioned to use the new line, it will be double tracked, further increasing costs.

From Zwei’s point of view, $1 billion could by us a Vancouver to Chilliwack TramTrain, which would be money far better spent than relocating tracks used by four passenger services and a few freights a day. Sorry folks, the train was there years before the majority of people moved there and there it will stay.

When one moves next to railway tracks it is ‘caveat emptor‘.

 

Cities present four rail-route options to bypass White Rock

It was standing-room-only at Tuesdayai??i??s community forum on railway safety, as more than 300 people packed the Pacific Inn in South Surrey to learn more about ongoing research into relocating the train tracks off the Semiahmoo Peninsula waterfront.

Four possible options for realigning the BNSF tracks ai??i?? including three that would move the line along routes east of 176 Street ai??i?? were presented in what was described as an opportunity for public feedback.

While most attendees appeared to be in favour of relocating the tracks, the possible new routes did not sit well with everyone. Anna Dean said she was ai???seeing redai??? at the suggestion to move the problem from one community to another.

ai???We donai??i??t want your problem in our neighbourhood,ai??? Dean told a panel that included Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts, White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and City of Surrey staff. ai???Whatever the alignment is, it will affect another neighbourhood.ai???

While the idea of relocating the tracks is not new ai??i?? it has been raised many times in recent decades ai??i?? the citiesai??i?? officials said, and many attendees agreed, the time is right to push for making it a reality.

ai???There is a much faster, safer and viable route available,ai??? Baldwin told the crowd, to applause.

ai???If we were starting from scratch, the present route would be the last we would take.ai???

The issue of the lineai??i??s safety has been in the forefront in recent months, following derailments in other areas of the country and the death of a White Rock jogger who was struck by a passenger train.

Baldwin announced plans for the forum at last weekai??i??s White Rock council meeting, explaining Watts contacted him in August to invite his cityai??i??s participation in Surreyai??i??s efforts ai??i?? an invitation Baldwin said added much-needed clout to the argument.

ai???It wasnai??i??t 20,000 people talking,ai??? he said Tuesday, referring to White Rockai??i??s population. ai???It was over half a million.ai??i?? This is a great thing.ai???

Watts noted 15 of the 19 kilometres of rail line eyed for re-alignment run through Surrey. From the border, it passes through the Douglas area, along four kilometres of White Rockai??i??s coastline, then through Ocean Park and Crescent Beach before heading across Mud Bay and joining the main line at Colebrook Road.

Watts cited a number of studies since 1995 that have looked at the feasibility of moving the rail line. Surrey staff revisited the 2002 Delcan Report this past June, and ai???realized very quickly that we needed to resurrectai??? the effort, she said.

Watts said a memorandum of understanding signed last year for high-speed passenger-rail service between Vancouver and Seattle further supports the argument.

ai???As I looked at that, I felt, ai???youai??i??re going to have a problem,ai??i??ai??? Watts said. ai???This current alignment will not support that in any way, shape or form.ai???

She said safety issues with the existing route include population growth in the area; slope stability and erosion that increases the risk of landslides; pedestrian risk; access; and the transportation of dangerous goods. Predictions of a two-metre rise in sea level and more wet weather must also be considered, she said.

Realignment is estimated by the cities to cost $350-450 million.

One option presented Tuesday parallels King George Boulevard and Highway 99, and would see the line tunnelled between 16 and 36 avenues. Two of the three options for east of 176 Street are envisioned as largely elevated routes.

Attendees were given ai???10 to 12 minutesai??? to formally comment or ask questions. Cost and where the funds would come from were among concerns raised. One attendee wanted to know how many fatalities have occurred along the line in its history; another asked Watts to ai???dig in your high heelsai??? to help move the concept forward.

An online survey on the project is at www.cityspeaks.ca/saferail

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