Subject: Expansion of Vancouver Burrard Inlet Line
July 16, 2018
Dear Minister of Transport Mark Garneau,
It is with grave concern that we read your announcement on June 22, 2018 that the Federal government is investing $22.5 million in a project, led by Canadian National, that involves "designing and building a 4.2-kilometre-long secondary track, parallel to the existing Burrard Inlet (BI) line, in the City of Vancouver.”
The BI Line was constructed as a minor spur line in 1909 on a narrow strip of land that needled through the existing neighbourhood of Strathcona. Today the track passes within yards of dozens of heritage homes, hundreds of units of social housing, a new 280-unit high rise, a 200-bed nursing home and an elementary school.
After a dormant period of nearly a decade, the reactivation of the BI line in January 2017 has already had a dramatically negative impact on our community. The single track is currently being used throughout the night to shunt and assemble trains, disrupting the sleep patterns of parents, children, working people, and seniors. Noise levels measured within the nearest house, with doors and windows closed, often reach over 90 decibels in the middle of the night. Residents who have lived here for over 40 years say it has never been this bad. In May 2018, over 25 households filed a formal noise and vibration complaint to the Canadian Transportation Agency which has yet to be resolved.
The BI Line is a poor choice for a commercial transportation corridor. Within one kilometer, it has five at-grade crossings, blocking already congested vehicle and bus traffic. From a railroad safety perspective, the track is an accident waiting to happen, with poor sightlines and angled grade crossings. Due to a lack of proper mitigation measures and management by CN Rail and the Port of Vancouver, there are ongoing problems associated with unregulated access by vulnerable populations from the nearby Downtown Eastside, including several recent fires. A derailment along such a densely populated rail corridor would be a disaster.
To our knowledge, none of these concerns are being factored into the highly questionable decision to add yet another track, which from our perspective will only make a bad situation worse.
We recognize the need for economic development in the Port of Vancouver, but we also recognize that the reactivation of this inefficient spur line was triggered when CN pulled out of a co-production agreement with CPR to use its existing tracks along the Burrard Inlet. Why use Federal funds to expand an inefficient, disruptive and dangerous spur line when there already exists a more economical and efficient way to move cargo out of the Port?
As the Minister responsible, we implore you too not allow this project to move forward until our community has been consulted, impacts on residents and local businesses have been thoroughly assessed and alternative solutions for rail movement in and out of the Port have been considered.
We also ask you to come and see for yourself. We invite and encourage any government or transportation official involved in this decision to tour the site. We would be happy to arrange for one of our residents to be your guide.
Strathcona Residents Association