Supporters of moving the BNSF tracks from White Rock and South Surrey’s waterfront should not expect it to happen any time soon.
That’s the message from both Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts and Coun. Mary Martin – while White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin acknowledges there is no specific proposal before either the federal or provincial government.
In an emailed response to a letter from Morgan Creek resident Anthony Rose (who also addressed concerns about the effects of a realignment on his neighbourhood in a letter to Peace Arch News published Dec. 5), Martin said realignment “will not happen in the near future, nor in the foreseeable future.
“Mayor Watts’ only concerns are for the safety of the rail shipments, in particular the crossing at Crescent Beach. It was Mayor Baldwin who brought up the idea of the realignment.”
Watts spoke at a Nov. 26 City of Surrey community forum, where she presented four options for relocating the BNSF route in other areas of her city, however Monday she said the forum was “about beginning the conversation.”
Moving the line, Watts said, “would be a lengthy process, without a doubt.”
While information on realignment is being gathered in an overall study of rail-safety issues, the primary focus is ensuring the current route is safe, she said.
“The realignment conversation is secondary to the conversation around safety issues,” Watts said.
“What we want to be dealing with is safety issues around the (current) alignment – the stabilization of the slopes, the length of trains, the access to Crescent Beach and the condition of the trestle bridges.”
Told of Watts’ and Martin’s latest comments, Baldwin questioned why the City of Surrey would provide four choices for realignment if moving the tracks is not an option.
Baldwin told PAN there is no timeline at present to propose realignment to either provincial or federal authorities, although he expected some overtures would be made “early in the new year.”
“We’ll start with our local representatives and work our way up the chain,” he said.
Baldwin added that there is no favoured proposal for realigning the main BNSF cross-border route.
“The bottom line is it could even be one of the (BNSF) spur lines at Sumas or some other place – although perhaps there would be problems with load-bearing capacity,” he said.
Watts said City of Surrey committees are studying all aspects of rail safety – and other environmental issues the city will have to address, including a potential rise in the sea level that could impact the Nicomekl and Serpentine river systems.
“This is about getting information, looking at issues and engaging the public,” she added. “There are a few issues that we’ve been talking about for decades.”