B.C.’s provincial government will be sending a letter to Ottawa this fall expressing support for a feasibility study into rail relocation on the Semiahmoo Peninsula.
White Rock South Surrey MLA Gordon Hogg confirmed Wednesday that he has been moving quietly behind the scenes to bring together provincial, federal and municipal representatives to see if a relocation feasibility study – estimated at costing between $800,000 and $900,000 – can be jointly funded.
He said he arranged an unpublicized meeting June 8 including B.C. transportation and infrastructure minister Todd Stone, Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner and White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin and Coun. Grant Meyer.
“There was nothing secret or clandestine about it,” Hogg said, adding that the meeting took place at the Coquitlam offices of the provincial ministry.
Hogg said that Stone and the mayors have made a commitment to fund such a study, and that the letter from the province to the federal government will also ask for a federal contribution.
Fleetwood-Port Kells Liberal MP Ken Hardie, who is a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities, has also had meetings with Hogg on the topic. (*An earlier version of this article stated Hardie attended the June 8 meeting, but Hogg’s office says that is incorrect.)
Hogg said he has been seeking the wording of a similar letter sent by the Manitoba government as part of a move seeking rail relocation in Winnipeg earlier this year.
“We wanted to make sure the letter hit the same principles,” he said, adding that the study would be a “very preliminary” move toward rail relocation on the Peninsula.
South Surrey-White Rock MP Dianne Watts, also a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee and an advocate of rail relocation since her years as mayor of Surrey, was not part of the June discussion.
“The only difference between Ken and Dianne is that Ken is a member of government, rather than dealing with a member of the opposition,” Hogg said, adding that Hardie’s assistance would give greater weight in persuading Ottawa to fund a study.
“If we’re going to get support, (the government) is where it’s going to come from.”
Hogg said that while all the ramifications of rail relocation aren’t known, it is clearly of interest to residents of the Peninsula concerned about the safety of the current waterfront location of the BNSF rail corridor.
“A tunnel in Crescent Beach, which is one of the things that has been suggested, doesn’t help the problems in White Rock,” he said.
Rail relocation on the Peninsula might actually speed the BNSF route by some 25 minutes he said, which might mean that under the federal Rail Relocation Act, the rail company would contribute to costs of the relocation rather than being compensated for a delay.
“A feasibility study is an important part of the process.”