Railway overpasses will eliminate at-grade crossings in Surrey

Mixed reaction to overpass route

Businesses wonder about impact of $360-millilon railway project

Reaction is mixed among business owners who could potentially be affected by the construction of three new railway overpasses and feeder routes along the Surrey-Langley border.

The so-called “combo-pack” of the $360-million Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program will include the construction of overpasses on 192 Street and 54 Avenue.

However, the longest of the three will be built along 196 Street, crossing the Langley Bypass in a heavily developed business area.

Dan Springman, owner of Springman’s Saab on the southeast side of the Bypass, learned through the grapevine about plans to build the 196 Street overpass directly above his car dealership.

“I haven’t seen the actual drawings. I found out through a friend who has an engineering company that it’s going to be on top of me,” he said.

So far, Springman said, he has plenty of questions and very few answers.

“How high will it be, where does it go? We don’t know anything. No one’s told me,” he said.

“I’m concerned because we have no knowledge of it, and I think it will have a huge effect on us.”

Springman also wonders what will happen with respect to a creek that runs behind his dealership. When he bought the property in 1997, he said, he wanted to have a culvert installed, but his application was denied by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Now that there are plans for major construction in the area, he wonders how the issue of the creek will be addressed.

“We weren’t allowed to put in a culvert, and then these guys come along, and who knows what they can do.”

Across the Bypass, Doug Seal, manager of Willowbrook Chrysler, has some concerns about the project as well.

“From a personal, selfish point of view, I can’t see it doing anything good for my business, but I understand they can’t stop the project for a neighbour who’s unhappy,” he said last Friday, after looking over the design on the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor website.

“I can’t see that it would be too attractive to have a massive freeway next to our business.”

Like Springman, Seal was concerned with the lack of notice he’s received from the people in charge of the project.

“It seems to have popped up by surprise. You’d think somebody would stop by and say ‘we’re doing this massive development right by your property.’”

And he’s concerned the overpass could create further back-ups on an already-congested road.

“Traffic along 196 Street (between 60 Avenue and Fraser Highway)  is often backed up very badly now,” he said. “You can wait two or three lights to get through. Now you’re going to add on a massive overpass? It’s not going to work.”

Of the three overpasses included in the combo-pack, the 192 Street improvement is the only one that makes sense to Seal.

“It’s an existing road that gets used,” he said.

The rest, he said, is a waste of tax dollars.

“As a taxpayer, I’m concerned with the amount of money being spent.

“It’s (196 Street) a road from nowhere to nowhere. I can’t understand spending that massive amount of money.”

However, Aly Sunderji, owner of Samz pub at the corner of 56 Avenue and the 196 Street right of way, sees some potential benefit in the project, which will include developing what is now a gravel lane into a two-lane road, south to 54 Avenue, and the installation of a traffic signal at the corner of 196 Street and 56 Avenue.

He learned about the plans through a business associate, but the news didn’t come as a complete surprise.

“We always knew it would be a road someday,” he said.

The opening up of 196 Street will create more traffic and potentially more exposure for his pub, Sunderji believes.

However, it will also mean that Samz will lose the overflow parking spaces along the lane immediately east of the building — property Sunderji currently leases from the City of Surrey. But he said that with the new drinking and driving laws in effect, he doesn’t need to supply as much parking as he once did.

The other benefit of the development Sunderji sees is the removal of an undesirable element — “crackheads and druggies” — who hang around the wooded gravel right-of-way next to his pub.

“It will be nice to get rid of that,” he said.

Go to robertsbankrailcorridor.ca for a detailed map of the plan.

– by Brenda Anderson

newsroom@surreyleader.com