BNSF is disputing claims that the railway has only recently begun planning to replace the aging bridge over the Little Campbell River on Semiahmoo First Nation land.
BC NDP Leader Adrian Dix and Bill Brehl, president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference Maintenance of Way Employees Division, had both told Peace Arch News earlier this month that they feel the promised bridge is arriving late in the day.
However, in an emailed statement to PAN Thursday, BNSF spokesperson Gus Melonas labels “false” claims that “BNSF has only now gotten serious about replacing the bridge and that local officials and the public have been misled about how long BNSF has been working to replace the bridge.”
“It is long past time… to set the record straight,” he says.
Melonas points to correspondence between lawyers for Semiahmoo First Nation and BNSF that show access issues relating to replacing the bridge were already under discussion in March 2012.
The bridge was placed on BNSF’s internal list for replacement in 2011, he notes.
Melonas also disputes allegations suggesting the bridge is not capable of handling current traffic.
The main span is inspected monthly by a BNSF bridge inspector, he says, while a June inspection by Canadian Professional Engineers showed that while there were maintenance issues, there were “no items of immediate safety concern.”
Maintenance this month is to replace a cracked girder bearing and span bracing and replace hardwood shims with steel shims, he said.
Melonas also notes that inspections and maintenance have continued throughout negotiations with Semiahmoo First Nation.
“BNSF has had engineering plans, environmental permits, and a Canadian contractor ready to rebuild the main span of the bridge, once we can gain access to the property.”