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BNSF to replace trestle, bypassing First Nation land if necessary

BNSF officials hope to replace the Little Campbell trestle by the end of the year. - File
BNSF officials hope to replace the Little Campbell trestle by the end of the year.
— image credit: File

Work to replace the deteriorating Little Campbell River rail bridge “could begin as early as this summer.”

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas gave the update this week, confirming at the same time that the timeline does not mean access to the bridge has been worked out with the Semiahmoo First Nation.

“We would apply technology from railroad property,” Melonas told Peace Arch News Monday.

Melonas told PAN last August and again in January that the company was negotiating with the Semiahmoo for access to build a replacement bridge – a project valued at $1.3 million. The bridge sits on a BNSF-owned right-of-way through the Semiahmoo reserve.

Repeated efforts by PAN to elicit comment from the band spokesperson have been unsuccessful.

The bridge has been a subject of concern for years, and earmarked for replacement since 2011. Concerns with its condition were heightened following last summer’s derailment in Lac Mégantic, Que.

During a meeting with White Rock city manager Dan Bottrill and BNSF officials in Seattle last week, Coun. Grant Meyer said he took the opportunity to ask about the status of replacement plans.

“They said they have a plan. They didn’t expand,” Meyer said. “I took that as positive… that maybe there has been some movement.”

Meyer said other topics discussed at the meeting in Seattle focused on the “mutual concern over rail safety,” and included the possibility of new railings along the waterfront, trespassing and the transportation of dangerous goods through the Semiahmoo Peninsula.

The general manager of Burlington Northern’s northwest division, Daryl Ness, is to get White Rock’s sense of those concerns firsthand next week, during a visit to the waterfront.

“He’s agreed a group of them would come up, so that’s great,” Meyer said. “You hear something, but until you can actually see it for yourself, sometimes it’s difficult to put it in perspective.”

Melonas said the head of BNSF’s engineering team will also be among the entourage.

“We’re actually going to walk through the promenade area, take a look at everything from the right-of-way, discussing train volumes to commodities, to pedestrian safety… to drainage,” he said.

Both Melonas and Meyer described the April 29 meeting as positive.

Meyer said he appreciated the opportunity to more fully discuss issues such as the planned extension of White Rock’s promenade, and an assurance that BNSF’s hazmat team will be contacting the White Rock fire officials to discuss emergency preparedness.

Melonas said the upcoming waterfront walk-about is “a good way for us to understand, hands-on, exactly the lay of the land.”

“We know the railroad – every inch of the railroad – but it’s certainly good to get community perspective as well,” he said.

Melonas told PAN more specifics for the trestle replacement would be shared once details are finalized.

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