Friday, August 1, 2008

Fraser River Rail Bridge Replacement in my Lifetime?

As you are probably aware, Translink has released the Pattullo Corridor Study from May 2008 to look at what can be done with the aging bridge. There is really nothing too exciting in the report, but I wanted to draw you attention to the section on a combined road/rail bridge. Again as you are probably aware, the over 100-year-old Fraser River Rail Bridge is in dire need of replacement. The Township of Langley wrote a letter to Transport Canada requested the bridge be replaced. They received the following back
I am aware of the issue identified in your letter related to the Fraser River Rail Bridge. I also understand that TransLink is undertaking a Pattulo Bridge Corridor Study to develop a long-term replacement and/or rehabilitation strategy for the existing bridge. Among the strategies that will be examined is a proposal to combine the Pattulo Bridge and the Fraser Rail Bridge into a single structure. Allow me to assure you that Transport Canada officials will monitor the study's progress and keep you informed of new developments.

-The Honourable Lawrence Cannon, P.C., M.P.

This is what Translink’s report had to say about the a combined bridge:

The technical feasibility of a combined road rail bridge was evaluated to ascertain if further investigation is merited in terms of project costs, operating management, and other jurisdictional issues. The study findings indicated that a combined road rail bridge is technically feasible, however, there are many other considerations. The benefits to TransLink in pursuing a combined road rail bridge may prove to be strictly financial as it is believed that the combined structure alone may be less expensive to construct than two separate structures for the road and rail components. However, the requirements to connect the rail and road components on the various approaches for a combined road rail bridge in the preferred locations (zones or Bridge Alignments 1 or 3) may involve other associated costs. Further investigation beyond the scope of this study is required to identify the costs of the rail only bridge along with the associated connection cost that would apply to both a rail only bridge and the combined road rail structure. It is recommended that the combined road rail structure be retained for further consideration until such time that the other associated costs can be identified and compared against the rail only and road only options. The next steps in the financial assessment of a road rail structure would likely include:

-Marine navigation study – to identify the optimal elevation for the rail component based on the future composition of marine traffic;
-Project Cost estimates for a rail only bridge;
-Definition and cost estimates for the rail approaches – this would include an examination of the potential impacts and /or conflicts associated with a road rail bridge in either Bridge Alignment 1 or Bridge Alignment 3.
Basically this report says that the federal government can a.) chip in and get a combined rail bridge, or b.) pay for a new separate rail bridge. Ether way, the federal government will need to show leadership if this bridge is to be replaced before it clasps into the Fraser River. In the meantime, it looks like we will get more studying which mean more time with a rail bridge from the turn of the 19th century.

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