Four optional rail routes presented by the cities of White Rock and Surrey.

Four optional rail routes presented by the cities of White Rock and Surrey.

EDITORIAL: Get back on the right track

Local politicians need to get on the same page when it comes to potentially moving the railroad tracks off the waterfront.

Elected officials usually have no difficulty finding a political issue and staying on track.

But when it comes to their various proposals to relocate the rail line that’s bordered the Semiahmoo Peninsula waterfront this past century, they’re getting way off course.

Proponents of BNSF relocation – who’ve been raising the spectre of impending disaster increasingly since the 2013 Lac-Mégantic train tragedy in Quebec – say it’s well worth the hundreds of millions of dollars estimated to realign the route inland.

However, the politicians who have backed their plan – at least at various levels in the past – might be causing more harm than good for the communities they serve.

Take Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner, who launched her successful run for the city’s highest office last year by telling Crescent Beach residents that if elected she would immediately engage in discussions with BNSF to have the tracks moved to a more direct, faster, safer route.

Now, as of last week, she says realignment is worthy of consideration, but only if the tracks move underground.

Take White Rock Mayor Wayne Baldwin, who has made train issues a priority through both of his terms. While he’s been more steadfast on the issue than Hepner, he hasn’t done his proponents any favours by repeatedly provoking railway partners: last year, in open council, he famously referred to a safety inspector as a “petty little bureaucrat”; he oversaw a “permanently closed” gate at the boat launch that was unlocked and abandoned a few days later; and, just last month, he told council that Transport Canada “laid down the law” to BNSF with regards to train-horn blasts in the middle of the night.

None of these apparent ‘miscommunications’ have helped.

Lastly, incoming-MP Dianne Watts launched her federal campaign in South Surrey-White Rock by making rail safety a priority; this after, as Surrey mayor, she long studied the issue and presented to residents four alternate track routes elsewhere in her city.

Now, she says only that rail relocation may be a part of her safety initiative.

While it’s clear all three leaders have their communities’ best interests at heart, we suggest they meet publicly to discuss any realistic options.

Anything less looks rather misdirected.

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