Trains that run through White Rock and South Surrey could be relocated in five years.
White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin made the “rough guess” on the timeline at city hall Monday, following council support this week of his motion to direct staff to get the ball rolling on the process to move the tracks.
“There’s some routes that could be done relatively quickly and others that would take several years,” he told Peace Arch News.
Council voted unanimously in favour of the motion Monday, which included amendments specifying that staff “initiate the process and application” and work with Surrey and Delta officials where appropriate.
Baldwin said the returned focus – the issue was the subject of a community forum last November – was spurred by the decision to green-light a coal-transfer facility and word of an expansion to the Roberts Bank terminal.
Baldwin said the application to the Canadian Transportation Agency, under the Railway Relocation and Crossing Act, is to address issues with dangerous goods, excessive train traffic, vibrations, noise and pedestrian safety. It must include a financial plan, proposed cost-sharing and a transportation plan.
Semiahmoo First Nation has given verbal support and the province will also be approached to partner on the effort, he said.
Coun. Grant Meyer – who chairs the city’s rail-safety task force – acknowledged achieving the goal won’t be easy.
“There’s going to be a lot of people that are going to say this is a dream, you’re out to lunch. It’s unfortunate (so many) people see the glass as half-empty.”
Coun. Louise Hutchinson expressed concern the new focus could derail ongoing efforts to address train noise and increase pedestrian safety.
That work is to comply with orders from Transport Canada that followed the death last summer of a pedestrian on East Beach tracks. New signage has been erected; chainlink meshing is to be installed; and pedestrian crossings are to be levelled.
“I don’t want us to go forward in a process that is going to be a lengthy one and lose sight of what we are already doing,” said Hutchinson. “And that is, to get our waterfront back, to be able to have the train traffic and pedestrians in somehow some harmony, and to reduce the noise.”
Coun. Al Campbell, a member of the rail-safety task force, responded that “the task force is on top of it… It’s important that you understand that we are doing those things.”
Baldwin added that while the city is “negotiating (with Transport Canada) not from a position of power,” the relocation effort “is something else entirely different and we are going to proceed with that one way or another.”
The city’s motion was well-received by council attendees.
“My question is, how can I thank you enough?” said Susan Potzold. “You know you have a lot of support in the community for this.”
Ken Jones, a former city councillor and MLA, described the directive as “a big step forward in making (the communities of South Surrey and White Rock) safer.”
“You’re showing leadership, and this is what we’ve always needed in this area.”
One Maple Street resident told council the relocation can’t happen soon enough. The road and houses all shake with every passing train, she said.
“Can you please make sure that this is hurried along before we all have a very dangerous accident with the trains coming off the tracks?” the woman asked.