Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Friday wrap up

with 14 comments

There are a whole host of stories this morning, but none of them seem worthy of more than a passing comment.

The Sea to Sky closure was, of course, predictable, in the sense that it seemed very likely that something like that would happen sooner or later. Vaughan Palmer’s opinion piece yesterday looked at the decision making process, but made the odd reference “High-speed rail would be expensive” – which is quite misleading. High speed rail was not examined. The rail options which were looked at were all very cheap indeed, so the government insisted on a rail tunnel across the Burrard Inlet as well, in order to make it look too expensive. There were many other possible ways of doing it without a tunnel of course. And a railway up the Pitt Valley was one of the cheaper options, actually, and was costed as a student exercise a few years ago. This was long before the furore over private power projects.

The Patullo replacement decision was also quite predictable. Translink is effectively boxed in by provincial policy. The only way to pay for a new bridge is a toll, and there is no way to pay for the same size of figure for a shorter lived upgrade. The province knew all this when it downloaded the bridge. In fact the province’s cynicism was only too apparent. The downloaded bridges were all known to be in trouble – Kinght Street, Patullo and Westham Island. At least the first two have some regional role. Why Westham Island bridge was not just downloaded to Delta I do not know. The interesting admission is that the lcoation of the Patullo replacement depends on the alignments of the North and South Fraser Perimeter Roads – both provincial projects and part of the Gateway. Except of course both only serve regional traffic and have very limited provincial significance. What is needed of course is a regional multi-modal transportation strategy that would also address the need to replace the adjacent New Westminster railway swing bridge. Don’t expect to hear much about that.

A toll on the Patullo also means that the Province now has a problem. There was supposed to be a toll free alternative to the Port Mann – now there won’t be. It could mean that finally talks start on a regional road pricing strategy but obviously that will have to wait until after the election. Expect lots of fudging before then.

GM has declared another record breaking loss last quarter and the head of BA says more airlines will go bust.  This just reinforces what has been said here more than once. Of course, that does not mean that BA also want to give up on the Heathrow third runway – even though proposals for the next high speed rail line in Briatin would include a station at the airport to help the railways pick up transferring passnegrs for Europe, where the railways and airlines are working together to shift more short haul traffic from air to rail as it is is much cheaper and more environmentally sustainable.

Written by Stephen Rees

August 1, 2008 at 9:54 am

14 Responses

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  1. Both the Province and the Sun report that Translink is evaluating whether the Patullo will incorporate a new rail span.

    Here’s the link to the Executive Summary of the Delcan Report for the new span.

    Click to access Pattullo_Executive_Summary_REV2.pdf

    The issues to be resolved as to whether to include the rail span are mentioned in the summary and relate primarily to connecting the new rail span to the existing trackage on either side of the river. i.e. a Federal contribution to a combined road and rail bridge would reduce Translink’s price tag, but other connection costs could outweight that benefit (presumably, depending on who is responsible for those extra costs).

    Given that there has been good cooperation from all levels of government on regional transportation projects, I’d be hopeful that a deal could be worked out with the Feds to contribute to the new Patullo Bridge project if it includes a new rail span.

    Ron C.

    August 1, 2008 at 11:19 am

  2. You know, Glen Clark’s Navy is still stitting there on the North Shore docks gathering barnacles. Converting the upper car deck to passenger-only on a couple of the cats, beefing up one of the industrial docks in Squamish, and running trains from there to Whistler could probably work for no more than 10% of the STS highway project budget, and would bypass all the geological problems igored by highway and rail officials.


    August 1, 2008 at 1:01 pm

  3. That’s probably VANOC’s back-up plan – negotiating a short term lease for the Fast Cats from Seaspan. But I’ll bet they haven’t completed negotiations and I’ll bet the news stories aren’t helping by portraying VANOC as being desperate for a solution – i.e. putting Seaspan in a better negotiating position. Ouch…

    Ron C.

    August 1, 2008 at 1:44 pm

  4. Would the rail companies with an interest in the rail bridge not be on the hook for some funding were the bridge to be replaced and the trackage increased? Eliminating that bottleneck would be a huge boon for them.


    August 1, 2008 at 1:52 pm

  5. Yes, Amtrak, BNSF and maybe CN (?) would have an interest in upgrading the bridge as well.

    This WSDOT report I linked to in the Amtrak Cascades thread projected a cost of US$575M in 2004 dollars for the replacement of the New Westminster Rail Bridge.

    Click to access LongRangePlanforAmtrakCascades.pdf

    Ron C.

    August 1, 2008 at 2:23 pm

  6. According to this Pacific Gateway map, each of BNSF, CN and CP use the span.

    Click to access gateway_map_FINAL_May2.pdf

    Ron C.

    August 1, 2008 at 2:26 pm

  7. I remember a geology prof and an urban geography prof giving two separate lectures in my UBC days on the unique geological situation in the STS highway corridor. The slide area in the news now is only one of several where the sheer planes and fault lines point downwards directly at the road and railway below. Kind of a dumb place to put them.

    I don’t think the initial 10,000 cubic metre slide with tumbling solid granite boulders would leave the road and rail bed undamaged, let alone a second slide with the same volume / weight after blasting. By the time they’re done blasting there could be upwards of of 25,000 m3 and 50,000 metric tonnes of material dropped on that road. Clearing debris is one thing, but I’d bet a loonie the road and rail bed have been significantly damaged and will several additional days to repair.


    August 1, 2008 at 2:29 pm

  8. SRY (Southern Railway of BC) also use the bridge regularly

    Stephen Rees

    August 1, 2008 at 2:37 pm

  9. A multi track rail-bridge (3 track draw?) would be a boon for the ‘Rail for the Valley’ people wanting to reinstate the interurban service. A multi track Fraser crossing would insure th pathways for interurban (DLR or LRT) service from downtown Vancouver to Chilliwack, just as the the old interurban service did.

    Really, this nonsense of the reinstated interurban terminating at Scott Road Station would ensure its failure as it must go to Vancouver.

    The GVRD LRT planners envisioned a new heavy-rail, light-rail, and road crossing of the Fraser in the 1970’s and political intervention moved the new bridge (the Alex Fraser Bridge), strictly a highway bridge a few km. down the river. Someone should dust off those plans.

    Malcolm J.

    August 1, 2008 at 3:43 pm

  10. A geologist told me some time ago that the whole ‘Sea to Sky’ corridor, is fraught with stability problems. The rock is fractures in such a way that annual weathering will eventually cause failure and as events have shown, do happen. It is the price living in an mountainous area.

    I really question the term “highs-peed rail” as a railway can be as fast as the track geometry will allow. No one ever tested a TALGO tilt train on the route, yet because the TALGO tilts and is articulated on single axles, it could achieve a faster speed on the torturous route. I have been told that a downtown Vancouver to Whistler service could have been achieved for a less than $500 million, but was never considered. All rail planning had to be done with existing track layouts and the trains departing to Whistler had to be “Y”‘d in New Westminster to use the 2nd Narrows Railbridge! This and other nonsense made any thought of passenger rail impossible.

    I also believe that BC Rail wanted to tunnel past some very unstable parts of the Sea to the Sky route.

    TALGO is only allowed to travel at a maximum of 89 mph in the USA (federal law) and could travel at 100 mph easy, on the appropriate track.

    A note:

    The first Japanese ‘Bullet’ trains actually were conventional electric trains travelling on very straight rail lines. They had very good PR, because in the UK, British Rail were operating 125 MPH diesel trains as well on the former GWR West Coast Route.

    Malcolm J.

    August 1, 2008 at 3:58 pm

  11. Posted by Paradigm4 on the SkyscraperPage website that Translink has purchased a parcel adjacent to the SRY line at KIng george Highway for a transit centre – it would easily accommodate an intermodal facility if the interurban line is used in future:

    TransLink has recently acquired a 2-hectare (4.9 acre) property within the Newton Town Centre Plan area, as shown on the map included as Appendix III, with the intention of relocating the transit exchange to this site. The site is located along King George Highway and the BC Hydro Railway Right-of-Way, and will provide a key transit interchange location to connect directly to the proposed Bus Rapid that is planned for the King George Highway corridor. The new TransLink site is large enough to accommodate an integrated Transit Interchange, with land remaining for other uses. Under its new mandate, regarding transit-supportive real estate development, TransLink wishes to develop the “excess” lands on its site to achieve land uses and densities that support transit ridership, and which provide a return on public investment that can be reinvested in further transit improvements.

    It is also an interest of the City that the current transit exchange not just be relocated to a new location, but that this new Interchange be the catalyst for mixed-use development at transit-supportive densities that will provide vitality and activity in this area.

    Ron C.

    August 1, 2008 at 4:46 pm

  12. The success of the ‘Interurban’ would be direct service to Vancouver. Translink is up to its old games of forcing people to transfer onto the metro.

    TransLink’s excuse goes something like this; “We spent over $5 billion on the metro, so we must force people onto it!”.

    A forced transfer onto SkyTrain would kill the interurban project before it got off the ground and it is imperative that it service Vancouver.

    Malcolm J.

    August 1, 2008 at 6:19 pm

  13. A few thoughts

    If nothing else, we’ve learned that the ferry dock at Darryll Bay needs to be upgraded so it can actually be used in future blockages between the emergency dock at Porteau Cove and Sqaumish.

    Any future highway bridge at New Westminter should include a replacement for the 1904 GN Bridge.

    Good luck re-instating the old BCER Chilliwack Line all the way into Vancouver; SkyTrain occupies its old ROW at grade between Joyce and Nanaimo….actually one transfer isn’t that bad; that’s par for the course on many large city metro (New York, London, Paris, Munich) and the idea of using Sapperton Bar would connect nicely with the M line Station at Sapperton.

    David Banks

    August 1, 2008 at 11:43 pm


    So lets see.
    The whole “global trade” thing is falling apart due to massive increases in transports costs even while Liberal clowns deny it.
    The tourism industry is hemorrhaging like nobodies business due to rising travel prices blowing a massive hole in the entire “Olympics as a tourism/investment incentive” spiel…
    …and finally, we have a skytrain going to an airport while dozens of airlines claim bankruptcy week after week, due to – you guessed it – rising fuel costs.
    And of course we’re destroying the ALR and Burns Bog so K-Fal can get his kids to soccer practice…
    Could we have a more inept, less prepared, more assuredly stupid gang of morons in public office right now?
    I somehow doubt it.


    August 2, 2008 at 10:51 am

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