The Fraser Valley Regional District is focusing its provincial lobbying efforts on more lanes for Highway 1 in the short term, rather than advocating for passenger rail.
Francis Georgian / Postmedia News Files
The Fraser Valley Regional District is focusing its provincial lobbying efforts on more lanes for Highway 1 in the short term, rather than advocating for passenger rail.However, the regional district’s board said more and diverse rapid transportation options — including rail opportunities — should be considered in the long term.“I know Highway 1 is severely underserving our population, but I also recognize that long term, as the population continues to grow, we do need to consider other transportation options, not only with respect to congestion, but as stewards of the environment,” said Chilliwack Coun. Chris Kloot.Regional district board members recently heard from South Fraser Community Rail, a group that proposes to reactivate the 100-kilometre Interurban rail corridor between Chilliwack and Surrey using hydrogen-powered passenger trains.The group estimates the cost of putting trains on the corridor at $12.5 million per kilometre on the 100-kilometre route, or $1.25 billion.A report prepared by Fraser Valley Regional District manager of strategic planning Alison Stewart said there are a number of unanswered questions about the project, and a more detailed financial analysis and business case are needed.“Endorsing a specific transit option without a full assessment of costs (capital and operating), benefits and alternative routes and technologies is not a prudent approach,” Stewart wrote.Director Henry Braun is also skeptical that CP Rail, which has right of way over a portion of track running through Langley, will be open to running passenger rail because of freight needs.The Abbotsford mayor has no issue with rapid transit in general, but he believes the regional district should “keep our eye on the ball.”
South Fraser Community Rail founding member Rick Green thought the regional district’s position was not nearly strong enough, and that the board should have supported the Interurban line.
Gerry Kahrmann /
The regional district and its member municipalities have been urging the province to address congestion on Highway 1 by expediting plans to widen the highway to include HOV lanes from 264th Street in Langley Township to Whatcom Road in Abbotsford, and ultimately Chilliwack. The regional district is particularly concerned about the economic toll of highway congestion.“I have concerns the focus will be taken off the highway widening,” said District of Mission Mayor Pam Alexis.Abbotsford Coun. Bruce Banman, an alternate director, said that while Highway 1 may be a priority, transportation should be looked at holistically and the board needs to lay the foundation for rapid transit of some kind in the valley for future generations.“This may not happen in my lifetime, but I don’t want to have to sit with my grandchildren and say we didn’t do this because we were too busy widening a freeway, we are too busy focusing all of our eggs in one basket,” he said.South Fraser Community Rail founding member Rick Green thought the regional district’s position was not nearly strong enough, and that the board should have supported the Interurban line.“In short, they’re copping out,” Green said.Green, who served a term as mayor of Langley Township, said he knows Highway 1 widening needs to happen, but it is not a panacea for congestion and it’s “bordering on irresponsible” to think it will be.He also took issue with Braun’s assertion that CP would not cooperate with using the length of track through Langley city and township for passenger rail because of busy freight traffic.“The reality is we have the rights through this corridor,” Green said.The regional district will ask TransLink to include it, Fraser Valley municipalities, the province and B.C. Transit on inter-regional linkages and policies that could be included in its Transport 2050 plan.TransLink has said it will look at the Interurban line as part of that planning firstname.lastname@example.org/jensaltmanRelated
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