I am concerned by Abbotsford Mayor Henry Braun’s $8 billion plan to build a completely new commuter railroad or SkyTrain to the Fraser Valley.
The fact of the matter is that that this proposal will take decades to complete and leave residents with few high-quality options in the interim. This grandiose “white elephant” metro acts as a distraction from more readily achievable transit solutions such as the Interurban rail route that would connect Chilliwack and Abbotsford directly with the expanded SkyTrain at Langley City.
We deserve better than having to sit in traffic for decades waiting for alternative transit to be built.
Mayor Braun states the contractual right the Province of British Columbia has to operate passenger service on the existing Interurban is unviable. However, his supposed impossibility of the Interurban line operating on the CP-owned track between Fort Langley and Cloverdale is completely without merit.
Today freight lines shared with community rail services are becoming increasingly common. San Diego, Newark, Ottawa, Portland, Sonoma County, and the Altamont Pass region near San Jose are examples of successful passenger rail sharing freight track.
Why can’t the Fraser Valley operate a similar low-cost regional passenger rail system? Mayor Braun rejects the thoroughly researched Interurban proposal and won’t move forward with the Fraser Valley Regional District for its consideration. Might he be protecting the freight rail industry that he has done business with? The public deserves an explanation of his perceived bias.
As well, his scheme to build an entirely new route along the freeway is not the best option for numerous reasons, too many to go into detail here. The existing Interurban route connects downtowns throughout the Fraser Valley whereas the Highway 1 route deviates from key destinations.
A rail route along Highway 1 from Abbotsford to Langley would need costly roads, parking and station infrastructures to be built, encouraging urban sprawl and encroach upon farmland. Alternatively, the Interurban route already connects existing town and city centres, residential communities, universities, businesses and industrial areas.
A win-win for all.
It’s time the Fraser Valley Regional District seriously considers the in-depth, Interurban rail transit study that creates affordable, environmentally sound, feasible options rather than red herrings which seemingly advance the interests of freight rail companies and developers who would prefer to convert farmland into strip malls, industrial parks, and McMansions.
Thomas Cheney, on behalf of Rail for the Valley Chilliwack