A BNSF trestle bridge near Crescent Beach: building an underpass beneath the tracks would be a more economical way to deal with some of the safety issues according to a report from the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transportation

Underpass idea doesn’t rule out Semiahmoo Peninsula rail move

Liberal MP says that reasons and criteria for relocation of the BNSF line deserve careful assessment

Relocation of the BNSF line off the Semiahmoo waterfront is still worthy of studying, according to a Surrey MP who is a member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Communities.

The committee’s report on rail safety released last week identified an underpass beneath the BNSF line in Crescent Beach as a cheaper alternative to address one of the major safety issues – the potential for access to the South Surrey community being blocked due to a stoppage of one of the lengthy freight trains that travel through the area – as well as removing the dangers of a crossing.

The report cited an estimate from BNSF that an underpass could be constructed for $35 million, as opposed to guesses on the cost of relocating the line which range from the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars.

But Fleetwood-Port Kells Liberal MP Ken Hardie says that while pursuing an underpass would be a logical step for the City of Surrey, that doesn’t necessarily mean the idea of relocating the tracks would be on a backburner.

“The report doesn’t speak to that either way,” Hardie told Peace Arch News on Friday.

“Probably what should be done is for the city and the railway to co-operate on assessment and analysis of what an underpass would cost and find out what federal infrastructure grants could be available for the work.”

At the same time, Hardie said, it must be acknowledged that there is a “call for relocation” in South Surrey and White Rock.

Under the Rail Crossing and Relocation Act, this must be done with no net cost or gain to the railway company, but Hardie suggested there could be benefits to the company in not having to incur the expense of ‘breaking’ trains in case of an emergency.

He noted the report recommended a more stringent approach by Transport Canada in requiring railway companies to draw up long-term plans to mitigate environmental impacts, including slope destabilization, mudslides and floodplain issues, as well as increasing inspections and assuming the costs of increased signage.

The committee has also examined the conditions for rail relocation, Hardie said, adding that “there are a number of reasons to relocate a rail line.”

Part of the committee’s work has included visiting Lac Mégantic in Quebec, site of the catastrophic derailment in 2013 that claimed the lives of 47 people.

“Clearly there is a desire to relocate rail out of that community,” he said. “A large amount of that community is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder – they say             ‘we’re afraid of the trains’. It’s not a technical issue – it’s a therapeutic one.”

As far as South Surrey and White Rock’s tracks are concerned, Hardie said, there needs to be further study of appropriate conditions for relocating the line, and what would be a reasonable sharing of costs among different levels of government.

While the present location of the line may have made sense over 100 years ago, that might not always apply, he said.

“We have to consider the rather fragile alignment along the foreshore as we continue to deal with climate change and the potential for surge tides in the future,” he said.

South Surrey-White Rock Conservative MP Dianne Watts – also a member of the committee and a rail-relocation advocate since her days as Surrey mayor – was not available for comment.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The peninsula’s Community Christmas Day Dinner at White Rock Baptist Church – seen here in 2019 – has been cancelled for 2020, because of pandemic-inspired limitations on gatherings. (File photo)
Annual Community Christmas dinner ‘just not possible’ this year

Organizers vow that 40 years-plus Semiahmoo Peninsula tradition will return, post-COVID

Sources volunteers face off at the organization’s ‘Enchanted’ gala – one as a fairy and the other as her magic-mirror reflection – held in 2019. (Tiffany Kwong photo)
‘Rising infections’ prompts move to virtual Sources gala

Silent auction, raffle opens to public at 9 a.m. Oct. 30

This year’s annual Lighted Boat Parade has been cancelled. (File photo)
White Rock’s annual Lighted Boat Parade cancelled

COVID-19 cited as main reason for cancellation of popular winter tradition

Strawberry Hill Hall is being renovated and moved to another location on its existing corner lot in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zillich)
Surrey’s historic Strawberry Hill Hall being moved a few metres in $1.2M reno project

Childcare spaces coming to corner lot where hall has stood for 111 years

A surveillance camera in a photo posted to the Project Iris page on surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca.
Quality surveillance video helps catch crooks, Surrey Mounties say

Charges laid in connection to break-and-enter in Guildford area

A woman wears a face mask and plastic gloves while browsing books as a sticker on the floor indicates a one-way direction of travel between shelves of books at the Vancouver Public Library’s central branch, after it and four other branches reopened with limited services, in Vancouver, on Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck)
B.C. reports 234 new COVID cases, 1 death of senior who had attended small birthday party

Roughly 5,700 people are isolating due to being exposed to a confirmed case

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry speaks Thursday (Oct. 29) during a news conference held at Fraser Health office, in video posted to Facebook. (Photo: Government of British Columbai/Facebook)
COVID-19 ‘disproportionately’ affecting Fraser Health: Henry

Health region has about 75 per cent of B.C.’s active cases

Burnaby RCMP responded to a dine-and-dash suspect who fell through a ceiling in March 2020. (RCMP handout)
VIDEO: Suspected dine-and-dasher falls through ceiling of Burnaby restaurant

A woman believed to be dashing on her restaurant bill fell through the kitchen ceiling

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A can of Canada Dry Ginger Ale is shown in Toronto on Thursday Oct. 29, 2020. The maker of Canada Dry Ginger Ale has agreed to pay over $200,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit launched by a B.C. man who alleged he was misled by marketing suggesting the soda had medicinal benefits. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Joseph O’Connal
B.C. man’s lawsuit over marketing of Canada Dry ginger ale settled for $200K

Soda’s maker, Canada Dry Mott’s Inc., denied the allegations and any liability

Vancouver Island-based Wilson’s Transportation has expanded to fill some of the routes left unserviced by Greyhound as of Nov. 1, 2018. (Black Press files)
B.C. bus companies say they need help to survive COVID-19

Like airlines, motor coaches have lost most of their revenue

A deer was spotted in October 2020 in Prince Rupert, B.C., with a bright pink yoga ball stuck in its antlers. (Kayla Vickers/Chronicles Of Hammy The Deer Official Page)
Hammy 2.0? Prince Rupert deer spotted with bright pink yoga ball stuck in antlers

The BC Conservation Officer Service is aware of the deer roaming around the city

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna Mountie hit with 2nd lawsuit in 2 months for alleged assault

Const. Julius Prommer is accused of breaking a woman’s knee during while responding to a noise complaint

Most Read