Sunday, January 4, 2009

Heavy Rail Traffic Relief Needed

Langley Times Editor Frank Bucholtz is keenly aware of the heavy rail situation in Langley. Frank offers this opinion piece for us and also provides a balanced view on the proposed Mufford/Glover overpass.

In the recent past we have stated that both are needed. We need to complete an overpass and we need to do what we can to get heavy rail traffic reduced in Langley as much as possible. The replacement of the New Westminster rail bridge is also something we have discussed. Like us, Frank also identifies a case for emergency vehicles as well. We agree with you Frank and we hope our leaders consider this advice.

Lengthy freight trains through Langley Township are not likely to disappear anytime soon, and if the recent kerfuffle over the Langley Events Centre illustrates anything, it is how hard it is to get funds from the federal government.

Yet extensive work over the past four years by previous Mayor Kurt Alberts and the previous council has secured funding of $300 million from various partners — including TransLink, the port authority and the rail companies, the province and Ottawa — for a rail overpass solution to the safety concerns (particularly for emergency vehicles) at the Mufford/Glover intersection and several other locations along the rail line.

This funding could be in jeopardy, since Green and some of his supporters are questioning the road route through the ALR lands near Milner that is proposed, along with overpass plans.

The overpass plan announced by former federal cabinet minister David Emerson in June, 2007 includes $75 million in federal funds for projects in Delta, Surrey, Langley City and Langley Township.

If the Township decides it does not want an overpass at Mufford and Glover, then the funds for that project, which is arguably one of the most complex and expensive of the nine proposed, will go to other projects.

None of the other municipalities appears ready to look this particular gift horse in the mouth. Thus it is likely they will get the funds Ottawa and the other partners have set aside for overpasses.

Critics of the Mufford overpass plan have some legitimate concerns, notably alienation of farm land and the funneling of traffic onto 216 Street and 64 Avenue, east of 216. However, the Township should not throw out the baby with the bath water, and should make every effort to work with the senior governments to ensure an overpass is built at or near Mufford Crescent.

This community needs relief from heavy rail traffic.

— Frank Bucholtz

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