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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Rail for the Valley Chilliwack to Vancouver 1900-1950

 An Abbotsford group is recommending a light-rail transportation service that would help to reduce traffic and pollution in the Fraser Valley.

The Rail for the Valley committee, formed about 18 months ago, has asked Abbotsford council to support a light-rail demonstration project along the old interurban rail route that once connected New Westminster to Chilliwack.

“Ideally, it could run from Scott Road [SkyTrain station in Surrey] to Chilliwack,” Rail for the Valley spokesman John Buker said in an interview

Exactly how far the line would run would depend on whether other municipal governments decide to join in. If not, the line would be more modest, Buker said. “It could be a small project from Abbotsford to Chilliwack.”

Buker said tracks are still in place on the old interurban electric line, which operated from 1910 to 1950.

Buker envisions the demonstration line as a method of gaining public support for a line which could eventually cross the Fraser River and extend to downtown Vancouver.

The current population of the Fraser Valley from the Port Mann Bridge to Chilliwack is 800,000.  By the year 2040 the projected population of this area will exceed 1.5 million. This is where the affordable housing is now for young families.  This is where we will see a lot of future growth. We must start planning for this now. Every year we wait , this project will get more expensive.

Consultant Peter Holt, who has been working with Surrey city officials to restore a service on a section of track in that city would possibly see a service between New Westminster and Chilliwack.

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts is supporting light rail over the provincial government’s preference, a SkyTrain extension.

“TransLink has estimated the cost of light rail at $27 million per kilometre versus $127 million per kilometre for the Evergreen Line  [through northeast Metro Vancouver] and $233 million for the UBC/Broadway Line,” states a policy paper on Watts’s election website.

The total cost of the line from Chilliwack to Vancouver would be around 1 billion dollars (the roof for BC Place costs $650,000).  Mr. Harper and his Conservative government , instead of giving big tax breaks to big corporations would see a better investment in our tax dollars in an infrastructure project like "Rail for the Valley"

In Vancouver during the Olympics, the city signed an agreement with transportation giant Bombardier to operate a 1.8-kilometre demonstration streetcar line linking the Olympic Village with Granville Island. The line, which ran from Jan. 21 to March 21, 2010, used borrowed streetcars from the Brussels Transport Co.

TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said light-rail transit south of the Fraser River is an option for the future, but TransLink now is more interested in expanding the capacity of the West Coast Express north of the river. Eventually that line could cross the Fraser River and reach Chilliwack.

Abbotsford NDP Candidate David Murray with Ed Broadbent at Halifax convention
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