Rail-relocation debate reaches New Jersey

The Editor, Regarding White Rock’s formal request to the feds for rail relocation: I used to live in White Rock and accepted the railway. After all, the trains have been there long before most of the community. But the increased coal train traffic that is now isolating Crescent Beach, severe weather as a result of climate change and the need to make passenger train service more attractive have changed my mind.

The traditional gentle and frequent West Coast rains have been supplanted by infrequent but major winter storms that threaten to weaken the slopes above the tracks. Delta areas like Mud Bay are also prone to damage. This last point was brought home to me two months after I moved to Belmar, New Jersey, on the shore, when Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy struck. The storm ripped apart our New Jersey Transit railway line where it

paralleled Raritan Bay and it tossed boats and containers onto the trackbed. This vulnerability to future disasters has led to talk about plans for an inland and also controversial rail route.

The White Rock proposal would enable high-speed rail, especially if it is coupled with track upgrades and replacing the aging New Westminster Rail Bridge, in accordance with the crossborder rail pacts signed by the province. Washington State wants to see faster speeds in Canada before it considers the proposed Blaine, WA station and adding trains. The plan should also include relocating Amtrak, VIA and buses from Vancouver’s Pacific Central station to Waterfront station. This would give better access to the downtown, the cruise ship terminal and to the Canada Line and SeaBus. The planned False Creek Flats redevelopment could help finance it, as rail line and terminal removal

would help make that multibillion-dollar project possible.

The White Rock proposal could also make commuter rail from Waterfront to South Surrey feasible with new transitoriented development stations, like at the South Surrey Park-and-Ride, 32nd Avenue/152nd St., 24th and 8th Avenues. The Waterfront terminal could also serve a long-needed commuter rail to Newton, Cloverdale, Langley and Abbotsford over the Interurban. Both lines could be operated with efficient low-emissions diesel multiple units.

Federal and possibly False Creek Flats money will only pay part of the price of any rail-relocation project. The province will have to pay its share. After all, if the province is willing to finance new bridges and highways, it should also help to pay for new rail lines that are part of the climate-change solution.

Brendan B. Read, Belmar and New Jersey