Contributed photo Federal funding announced today (Friday) will assist waterfront rail safety improvements, but does not include study of rail relocation options.

‘Quite a coup’ in rail-safety funding: South Surrey-White Rock MP

Relocation study not included in money for infrastructure improvements along waterfront train route

South Surrey-White Rock MP Gordie Hogg’s contribution to a White Rock rail-safety forum scheduled for today (Friday) is confirmation of more than $1.63 million in federal funding toward five rail safety-related projects on the Peninsula in 2018-2019.

Some of the work relates to a series of planned waterfront rail-safety measures – including a pedestrian overpass near Coldicutt Ravine and upgraded crossings with increased signals, lights and warning bells – discussed last year by White Rock council incumbent Grant Meyer, although Hogg said prior to the forum that it was his understanding “this is the first formal public announcement of the funding” from Transport Canada.

Hogg pointed out that the funding, announced on behalf of Transport Minister Marc Garneau to coincide with next week’s Rail Safety Week, represents a significant amount of $20 million in federal funding for rail-safety projects across Canada in 2018-2019.

“We got almost 10 per cent of the national allocation, which is quite a coup for us,” Hogg said.

While he acknowledged that none of the funding announced today relates to studying rail-route relocation – a project long pursued by civic officials in Surrey and White Rock – he said he is continuing to seek funding for that separately.

(In 2013, Surrey then-mayor Dianne Watts and White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin hosted a standing-room-only forum that presented four proposed routes for realigning the railway that currently follows the shoreline along White Rock and through Crescent Beach.)

Adding to the urgency for increasing safety measures around the line has been the death of a South Surrey teenager struck by a passenger train near Crescent Beach on July 4. The most recent previous fatality came when a jogger was killed crossing the track in East Beach when she was struck by a passenger train in 2013.

The five rail-safety projects, Hogg said, are part of extensive ongoing work done by the cities of White Rock and Surrey in collaboration with Transport Canada and BNSF.

“This is not coming out of the blue for either Surrey or White Rock,” he said. “These are things that are considered the best and most appropriate ways to create greater safety.”

The funding includes an 80 per cent contribution to a $400,000 project for signals, lights, bells and signage at the foot of Oxford Street; a 50 per cent contribution to a $901,000 project replacing an existing pedestrian crossing at the pier, including construction of retaining walls, stairs, walkways and ramps; plus a 50 per cent contribution to a $1.08 million replacement for an existing crossing at Cypress Street on East Beach with improved retaining walls, stairs, signage and warning devices.

The federal funding also includes paying half of the cost of a $400,000 design project for a pedestrian walkway between Bayview Park on West Beach and Coldicutt Ravine.

In South Surrey, Transport Canada is funding 80 per cent of a $153,600 project for Crescent Beach which will include a 1.8-metre high chain link fence on both sides of the rail track from Beecher Street west to McBride Street, and continued fencing westward on the south side of the track from there to the end of Bayview Street.

A total of 105 projects across Canada are receiving federal funds as part of a rail safety improvement program aimed at increasing safety at grade crossings and along rail lines and increasing public confidence in the national rail transportation system.

Today’s rail-safety forum takes place at White Rock Community Centre at 1:30 p.m., and will include representatives from both White Rock and Surrey civic governments.

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