Letters to the Editor

Keeping track of the positives, negatives

Residents are far from united on thoughts of rail relocation. - Tracy Holmes photo
Residents are far from united on thoughts of rail relocation.
— image credit: Tracy Holmes photo

Editor:

Re: Mayors probe moving tracks inland, Nov. 21; MP, MLA question track-move viability, Nov. 26; Cities present four rail-route options, Nov. 28.

The standard of living in B.C. is highly dependent on our ability to export and import all manner of goods through our ports. The expeditious flow of goods between B.C. and the U.S. in both directions is vital to our economy. The B.C. economy needs to grow to maintain our current standard of living, let alone improve it.

The rail-relocation project represents a golden opportunity to achieve this. Failure to seize this opportunity will result in loss of U.S. business and be disastrous to the B.C. economy.

Moreover, a Lac-Mégantic type of incident on our shoreline would be disastrous to White Rock. Cost estimates show that the cleanup only at Lac-Mégantic will be in the same order of magnitude as the cost of relocation of the White Rock railway. If the costs of compensation for loss of life and rebuilding are also factored in, the total cost of such disasters far outweighs the cost of relocating a few kilometres of rail line.

The business and safety imperatives can only be satisfied by having multiple rail tracks, which can enable faster and more reliable delivery over safer routes. This would create many more jobs and every stakeholder involved would benefit.

The cost is not that great, considering the alternative, and can easily be borne by the federal/provincial governments and the many stakeholders. The cost can also can be mitigated by a simple land-swap arrangement.

Remember, White Rock is paying BNSF more than $400,000 per year to use their land for car parks, and White Rock is restricted with regard to expansion and/or development of the shoreline and promenade areas to attract more tourists and visitors, or even its own residents.

If B.C. and White Rock are to prosper, it makes no sense to keep the tortuous, accident-prone, unsafe, low-speed rail line through White Rock and Crescent Beach. Everyone will benefit from its relocation and the subsequent remediation of the current route into an environmentally friendly seaside park and trail system.

Keith Knightson, White Rock

• • •

I think the City of White Rock should think a little more clearly about what the results would be if the railroad was moved.

Since the land does not belong to White Rock, it would have to be purchased from the railroad. And I don’t think the city could afford to do that, which means, of course, that developers who have lots of money could purchase the property. Pretty soon, we would have housing all along the beach, at very high prices, and access to the beach probably limited. In the end, the only people who would benefit from moving the railroad would be wealthy people who could afford to buy houses right on the seashore, while other residents would find their views blocked.

If it ain’t really broke… don’t fix it.

I am certain developers are rubbing their hands together in glee hoping that the railroad would be moved. Money money money money money.

Roger Currie, White Rock

• • •

I don’t like the noise or the holdups caused by trains at the only road-crossing entering or leaving Crescent Beach, but I can live with that.

What I am concerned about is the possibility of chlorine gas poisoning, because of a derailment just south of us. Elemental chlorine at high concentrations is extremely dangerous and poisonous for all living organisms.

If you live anywhere along the rail route except Crescent Beach, you can evacuate the area. In Crescent, you are stuck if the train is long enough.

We have been told that if there is a chlorine spill and the road is blocked, go into your house, seal all doors and windows and hope for the best. Do we need another Lac-Mégantic before we act?

They looked at putting a different entrance into Crescent, which would not be blocked by trains and decided it was too expensive. What is more expensive, a new crossing, or 400 families suing the city after a major catastrophe?

I think rail traffic should be, if possible, where all other traffic is, the 99 corridor. At that location, most of it is underground and, where it is not, is farmland. Wherever you put it, somebody is going to be upset, but that is the location that affects the least number of citizens.

Laurence Gill, Surrey

• • •

Estimates predict it would cost $350-$500 million to move the train tracks off the beach.

Trains may be a minor nuisance, but is it really worth this kind of money to move the tracks?

If our government has half-a-billion dollars that they don’t need, surely there is a worthier cause than satisfying NIMBYs.

For example, many schools are overcrowded. Quick calculations show we could build 24 high schools for the same price as moving the train track. Emergency-room wait times are another big issue in our community. We could spend the money on building a new ER at the Peace Arch Hospital, like the one at Surrey Memorial.

On a more global scale, imagine what this money could do. With $400 million, we could build 57,000 wells in developing nations, providing millions of people with clean water.

I’m not saying we need to give our tax money to charity, but I think there are much bigger issues in our community and our world than the train tracks at the beach.

Elise Burgert, White Rock

• • •

What really disappointed me was the remarks by MP Russ Hiebert and MLA Gordon Hogg in your paper. Why don’t we look at the glass as being half full, instead of the other way, all the time? Why don’t politicians from all levels of government get together and use their brains in finding solutions.

Maybe if BNSF gets the right incentive – which includes sharing funding from the many levels of government and finding ways to impress them in the long run that a relocation makes sense – maybe we could entice them to share in this endeavour with funding.

The whole crazy situation of this community/beach area being inundated by massive, dangerous trains – sometimes three in only one-half hour – drives me to distraction why it was ever allowed in the first place. Did those decision-makers have no vision of the future and what living in these communities would be like as they developed?

I am sure if there was a vote by the South Surrey and White Rock on the relocation of the railway, it would be in the 90-per-cent range for relocating.

Brian Lauder, Surrey

• • •

It would only be equitable for property owners directly benefiting from the relocation of the track to contribute towards the cost, rather than for all taxpayers to foot the bill.

Unfortunately, I am not one of those owners, who know only too well their properties would only appreciate in value when the track is gone.

The owners should be reminded the presence of the track has already made their properties more affordable to them in the first place.

Fen Kong Liew, Surrey

• • •

Am I missing something? Why remove the tracks? I was hoping for more trains.

How about two or three passengers trains a day bringing people (and their money) to experience the great lifestyle and culture of White Rock? And let’s not forget poor old Crescent Beach – no one ever mentions them.

It feels like the call for a removal is like the HST baby-out-with-the-bathwater to me: a good tax system trashed because taxed items were resented.

The line is, according to many, part of the charm of White Rock, as is the old station.

It’s the many one-mile-long, 100-plus-car trains carrying toxic chemicals, and the thermal coal Seattle doesn’t want in their backyard that we need to get rid of ASAP. And, yes, if it costs a billion dollars, it would be worth it.

How about getting the rail company to pay half, or more? A new route will surely result in significant gains: less fuel and travel time.

Michael Klerck, White Rock

• • •

I have been reading with interest the reporting of the proposed rail-track relocation in White Rock/South Surrey, and I am amazed that the local politicians have been so quick to jump for yet another chance to get their pictures in the press.

Note that there has not been any derailment in the vicinity since 1956, and the carriers have improved their rail safety enormously since then, yet the proponents are crying out with no consideration for the logistics or cost.

I would suggest that before any such program is even considered, our municipalities undertake the road repair/maintenance that is so badly needed.

Our mayors and councils are continually avoiding the obvious, while quick to seek publicity for mega-projects that will not happen.

R. Conley, Surrey

• • •

An open letter to Surrey council.

Residents of Crescent Beach and our thousands of daily summertime visitors thank you for your leadership. More importantly, millions of others, many not yet born, also thank you.

Combining the foreshores of White Rock, Surrey and Delta will forever change life south of the Fraser. Every family will have access to a coastal getaway without boarding a ferry or loading a car. The ‘Farm & Sea’ greenway will unlock the cultural potential of bordering communities. A connected South Fraser District will offer a unique recreational experience that is complementary to Vancouver.

On completion of the new George Massey tunnel/bridge, a viable cycle corridor will link Vancouver to the Peace Arch border.

The plan is a win for all of B.C., but we humbly acknowledge the benefits in safety are the greatest for Crescent Beach residents, visitors, and wildlife.

Our only way to give back, is to open the doors to our village… and this we do, with open arms.

Erik Seiz, Crescent Beach Property Owners Association

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