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LETTER: Trains not a result of corporate greed

Congestion on the I5 rail corridor is what causes railway companies to re-route.

Having two-mile long trains running through the edge of downtown Abbotsford is not a result of corporate greed by the Washington Group International or any other corporation, it is result of congestion on the I5 rail corridor in Whatcom County that causes railway companies to re-route through the Inland Corridor and through Abbotsford.

Secondly, it is much safer or less of a risk to operate coal trains or other dangerous-goods cargo trains on the Inland Corridor through Abbotsford, Huntingdon, Sumas and south to, or north from, Sedro Woolley in terms of the potential impact of an accident or incident to property and to residents in that corridor.

Yes, Dennis Washington and his board as well as Warren Buffet and his BNSF management are concerned about the impact of their train operations hampering emergency response times; however, modification to roadway/railway crossings in Abbotsford are a federal, provincial and city matter and are not the responsibility of a railway company.

Overpasses, at a cost of $30 million and up are not their responsibility.

So it is ridiculous for letter writer Vaughan to demand that railway companies have overpasses installed over every crossing.

Not counting the Trans-Canada Trail along the south side of the Fraser River, here in Abbotsford, there are 18 crossings, most of which fall into the improbable and don’t warrant an overpass category, although only four fall within the more urban part of the city and letter writer Vaughan should consider need of an overpass — but they will never get one.  The crossings are:

1.    Page Road, east of Gerry’s Automotive;2.    Fore Road, near the Dasmesh Punjabi School, to service two homes;3.    Harris Road, in the southeast part of Matsqui Village, 200 metres east of the intersection with Riverside Street – and an overpass would be too close to the Highway #11 intersection to allow for access to and from the Abbotsford-Mission Highway;4.    Townshipline Road;5.    Clayburn Road and the Clayburn Diamond, where the CPR line crosses the BC Hydro rail line (used by Southern Railway of B.C.)

It would be too expensive to warrant building a complicated overpass and this junction of two railroads and the intersection with Riverside Street at its southern end of that section.

6.    entrance to the old Maclure homestead, at 3977 Abbotsford-Mission Highway, opposite Willband Creek Park;7.    Valley Road, east of the Matsqui Transfer Station, for both the CPR line and the BC Hydro / Southern Railway of BC line;8.    McCallum Road, for the BCH/SRY line and the branch line to Ritchie Smith Feeds, Inc.;9.    Industrial Avenue, in the industrial park at the north end of McCallum Road as it turns into the Abbotsford-Mission Highway (BCH/SRY);10.    Turner Road for access to and from Clearbrook Grain and Milling (BCH/SRY);11.    33826 Morey Avenue as it cuts across the BCH/SRY line;12.    Maclure Road, west of the intersection with McCallum Road (CPR only);13.    McCallum Road, just south of the intersection with Morey Avenue at the bottom of the hill (CPR only);14.    George Ferguson Way, where the BC Hydro rail line parallels the CPR line;

An overpass here would have to be built starting as far west as Pauline, if not McCallum and would extend east as far as the playground of the Abbotsford Virtual School almost all the way to Sheffield Way, with tremendous impact on businesses from McCallum to Gladys and the apartments and residences east of Gladys on the south side of George Ferguson Way for almost one-half of a mile.

15.    Essendene Avenue, crossing both the CPR and the BC Hydro railway lines;

An overpass here would have to be built starting as far west as Pauline if not Five Corners and would have to be curved once it is on the east side of the two railway tracks in order allow access onto Old Yale Road.  This would impact – beyond belief – on the businesses on Essendene from Pauline to well beyond Cyril, let alone the Old Yale Heights multi-family dwellings on the rise to the hill.  An overpass here would never happen – nor be contemplated – and the cost would be exorbitant, let alone the disruption to all the business between Five Corners and  Campbell Avenue.

16.    Marshall Road just east of the intersection with Riverside (CPR and BCH/SRY);

An overpass here would have to start well west of Abbotsford Way and all the way to the Sumas Way intersection.  The impact on businesses and the BC Public Health Units in the old Abbotsford City Hall at the bottom of the hill on Marshall Road would be mind-boggling.  Again, another overpass that would never be contemplated due to cost and impact.

17.    Vye Road (CPR and BCH/ SRY);

Again, an overpass here would have to start west by Riverside and go all the way to Sumas Way, if not beyond in both directions, and would impact nine businesses, including the Southern Railway operations building on the south side of Vye, immediately east of the BC Hydro rail line.  (Again, BC Hydro owns the land or corridor; Southern Railway of B.C. has running rights and maintains the entire railway line from New Westminster to Chilliwack, while CPR/CNR have primary running rights from Pratt Junction, at 180th Street, east of Cloverdale, for the next 12 kilometres to Livingston Junction at 232nd Street in north Langley Township.)

18.    Fourth Avenue in Huntingdon, west of Sumas Way (CPR and BCH/SRY);

Of the 18 crossings, only the four – George Ferguson, Essendene, Marshall and Vye Road - warrant serious consideration but all four would be highly impractical and extremely costly and, therefore, improbable.  And, Abbotsford has two overpasses, not one, with the second being on Highway No. 1 to allow access by emergency vehicles to the east and west parts of the city.

The City of Abbotsford has to address the issue of emergency response in the worst case scenario, when a 200-car-plus train incurs a stoppage (due to derailment or striking a vehicle that tried beating it at a crossing) that simultaneously blocks crossings at George Ferguson, Essendene, Marshall and Vye Roads, a distance of five kilometres or 3 1/4 miles.

It is highly improbable that such an incident would occur as very few trains are more than four kilometres long. (CN has limitations of 12,000 feet; CPR does not.)

The City of Abbotsford has its police department headquarters near the City Hall and two community Police Offices – one on Essendene and the other on Marshall – but both are on the west side of the railway tracks.  APD needs to open another Community Police Office on the east side of the downtown city core, and at Macmillan and Old Yale would be a prime location for such an office.  But the APD has police officers on duty at locations throughout the city day and night, which includes all of the neighbourhoods on the east side of the CPR and BCH/SRY railway lines in the downtown core,  so they can respond to emergency calls extremely quickly.

The BC Emergency Health Services (Ambulance) has two stations in Abbotsford, one on Abbotsford Way near the Greyhound Bus Station and another on Mouth Lehman Road near the Fraser Highway.  Ambulances from either station are usually ‘in service’ at designated locations on the east side of the city so that crews can attend to any emergency health requirement in minutes.

Likewise, Abbotsford Fire Department, which has three fire stations – one on George Ferguson Way, near the City Hall; one on West Railway and one on Old Clayburn Road  near McKee Drive – can respond to emergency calls anywhere in the city regardless if there is a blockage of any of the four major railway crossings in the city core.

Specialty fire vehicles can always use Highway No. 1 to get to either the east or west parts of the city in a relatively short period of time.

And all emergency services, particularly the Ambulance Service, can reach Abbotsford Regional Hospital within minutes, even having to proceed all the way west to Clearbrook Road in order to double back on Marshall Road to the Emergency Department of the ARH.

As for more than two or three trains a day running from the United States or to it, that number will only increase due to congestion on the I5 railway corridor, so Abbotsford is going to have to get used to it, contrary to News Columnist Mark Rushton’s, ‘On The Other Hand’: “Reroute rather than shift the problem,” (Abbotsford News, May 7, 2014), to re-route the BNSF “Sea Level” line, that goes through White Rock, to proceed east from Colebrook, at the western end of Panorama Ridge in Delta, to Cloverdale and then proceed south through rich farm fields south to the U.S border, like the old New Westminster Southern Railway used to do between 1892 and the 1930s.

Having worked for MLA Lynn Stephens (BC Liberal – Langley) during the late 1990s, as her Communications Advisor, I have extensive understanding to the drive by Langley City and Langley Township to get provincial and federal funding to build a railway overpass (204th Street).  It can take a long time and seeing that Abbotsford will probably retain its Conservative MP (Ed Fast) in the October election, an NDP or Liberal government will not be totally responsive to Abbotsford’s woes as their response will be that other communities have a greater need for overpasses.

As for letter writer Vaughan’s citing “the occasional vehicle trying to run the crossing and getting hit by a train or a train hitting or running over a homeless (or inattentive) person living (walking) beside (or along) the tracks”, my response is have them pay for all the damage, cost of first responders, hospitalization of any injured persons and have their ICBC policy revoked.  That way you won’t have stupid drivers not paying attention to 100 decibel train whistles because they have their car stereo on too loud or earphones plugged into an I-Pod or Sony Walkman.  If they live, perhaps a jail sentence of 10 years might smarten them up.

As for the delay cause by investigation into ‘accidents’, the  police and ICBC investigators have to do their job because we live in a highly litigious world.  Traffic can always be turned around, anywhere on the major roadways in Abbotsford and re-routed so that drivers don’t get upset or consider some form of road rage.


G.E. MacDonell

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