SURREY — The City of Surrey wants to study rail realignment options to the tune of $700,000 – and it wants White Rock and the province to help pay for it.
“I wanted to wrap some real meat around the bones,” said Mayor Linda Hepner. “It’s been a discussion point, but we can’t do anything until we actually know what we’re looking at. It’s a significant amount of technical information before you’re even allowed the advance the application.”
The results of the proposed study to move the BNSF line would be the catalyst to initiate the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act (RRCA) process, which provides municipalities and provincial governments to “compel” the railway owner to relocate the train track.
It allows the federal government to pay for half the costs.
“I’m very cognizant in making sure we don’t take one piece of the puzzle and disadvantage another area,” Hepner said. “You see, the problem for them (White Rock), the removal is just that – a pure removal. For me, the removal is to where? Our complexity in my mind is significantly greater.”
Rail traffic has increased significantly along the line, with 16 to 20 trips per day, some carrying materials such as coal, chlorine and liquefied natural gas.
Residents have long since expressed concern about the increase in traffic, such as community access, noise disruption, safety, bluff erosion, dangerous goods and concerns about the environment.
And future increases are expected with Surrey Fraser Docks’ plans to double its current coal-handling capacity to four million metric tonnes per year.
While a number of measures have been taken to mitigate issues, such as whistling requirements and speed restrictions, the concerns remain and realignment has come up more than once.
In November 2013, then-mayor Dianne Watts teamed up with White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin to host an open house regarding moving the rail line away from their shared waterfront.
“We have seen between 2004 and 2013, about a 1,000 per cent increase in rail traffic,” Watts said at the time.
The city estimates a new line would cost between $350-$450 million, even higher if significant tunnelling is considered.
With files from Christopher Poon