Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Rail traffic due to port expansion: Port Metro Vancouver replies to some questions

Early last month, I attended a small group meeting that was hosted by Port Metro Vancouver about the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2 project near Delta. You can read about this meeting on a previous post, but the short story is that a lot more trains will be using the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor.

Langley is unique because it is the only part of the region were the rail line goes through a dense urban area. Because of the massive increase in rail traffic, $300 million is being spent on overpasses along the corridor to try and mitigate road congestion that will result from the increased rail traffic. Unfortunately in Langley, Fraser Highway and 200th Street are not part of this mitigation plan.

There is also concern that this increase in rail traffic will result in increased diesel emissions which have been linked to premature death in the very young and elderly. The emissions are also linked to increased cases of asthma. As Langley City has a higher-than-average seniors population, this is of great concern.

Roberts Bank Rail Corridor. Click image to enlarge.

One of the major concerns that we had at the small group meeting was how the Port was going to mitigate the impacts of increased rail traffic due to the proposed Terminal 2. Unfortunately, we were told very little at the meeting. We had other questions that the Port couldn’t answer at the meeting as well. Late last Friday, the Port replied to some of our questions.

What percentage of the containers that land in Vancouver are destined for the local market?
Approximately 10% of the goods that land in Vancouver stay in B.C.

What percentage of containers leave Deltaport by rail? What percentage leave by truck?
Approximately 2/3 of import containers that land at a marine container terminal in Port Metro Vancouver are loaded onto trains and leave the container terminal within 3 days. The remaining 1/3 leave by truck.

How many level crossings are there between Langley and Deltaport?
There are 30 level crossings between Langley and the Roberts Bank terminals, 9 of which are being addressed as part of the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program.

Of the approximately $300 million that was spent on the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Projects, how much did each partner contribute?
The funding breakdown for the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program is as follows:
Port Metro Vancouver - $50M
Transport Canada - $75M
TransLink - $50M
B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure - $50M
Railways (BC Rail, CN, CP, BNSF) - $32M
Corporation of Delta - $4.5M
City of Surrey - $22.4M
City of Langley - $8.3M
Township of Langley - $14.8M

Besides the Rail Advance Warning System being developed as part of the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program, are there any additional information systems in place or under development to alert drivers to imminent train traffic?
There are no other information systems planned other than TransLink’s Rail Crossing Information System that is currently under development for Surrey and the Township of Langley.

One of the things that becomes clear from these answers is that rail will remain the preferred mode of transportation for goods that pass through the Port. Interesting to note is that government is paying for 73% of the cost to mitigate some of the impacts of increased rail traffic from privately owned railways. Also worth noting is that only 30% of the rail crossings are addressed in the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor program.

While I believe that rail is the best way to move goods, considering the massive increase in rail traffic which will results in longer delays at level rail crossings and increased locomotive emissions that will impact human health, more needs to be done.

Some of the things that could be considered are trenching the railway through urban areas like they do in Los Angles. Even electrifying a portion of the rail line that goes through Metro Vancouver should be considered to reduce deadly emissions. These are all possibilities that would allow the free-flow of goods while preserving the quality of life for people in our region.

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