Aging rail bridge to be replaced in South Surrey

SOUTH SURREY — After years of concerns from residents and local governments, the rail bridge over the Little Campbell River is finally being replaced.

The structure, which was built in 1921, had become corroded and rusted through in some areas, prompting concerns of a derailment sometime in the future.

As such, rail operator Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) is set to replace the 93-year-old structure this Thursday with a brand new 80-foot steel span.

“So this will occur beginning at 8 a.m. and we’ll have a 14 hour shutdown of rail service, we won’t be running any trains,” said BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas. “That will allow a 30-person engineering bridge crew to replace the current bridge.”

The project is estimated to cost $2 million and it was initially thought the rail company would need to access the site via Semihamoo First Nation land, but those plans were scrapped in favour of replacing the trestle directly from the rail line.

“We’re going to bring in a crane on the rail and flat cars and will lift off the old bridge and replace it,” explained Melonas, who added the rail line will be in service later that same day.

However, Semiahmoo First Nation councillor Joanne Charles said they were unaware of the replacement work and were concerned what it could mean for the band, adding that she believed BNSF did not have the right to do the work.

“We believe that it’s band land and unfortunately Transport Canada, in their wisdom, has chosen to allow the permits required to do the train bridge replacement without dealing with our issues and concerns,” she said. “So when somebody is replacing something on what you believe to be your property you’d be upset about that too.”

Charles said their concerns surround what it could mean for the Semiahmoo community if a derailment of dangerous goods may occur, and the possibility of that happening with the new bridge.

“In the event that there is a safety issue in regards to the bridge we would be the only ones directly impacted at the beginning because it’s our land,” she said. “So I have no idea how they plan on doing what they’re doing or what the bridge details are.”

However, while Charles says they believe BNSF will be operating outside of their jurisdiction Melonas said they will be doing all the work on their railroad right of way.

“We have been giving an authorization from Transport Canada to go forward with this project and will take steps to ensure we do not impact First Nations property throughout this process,” he said.

Twitter @Questionchris

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