A PRIMER ON THE BI LINE
The Burrard Inlet Line is a single track that runs from the Port of Vancouver directly through our neighbourhood to the Flats Rail Yard behind Pacific Central Station. Until recently, it was rarely used. In 2018, CN Rail re-activated it so that it could better serve customers shipping containers to and from the Centerm Terminal.
In late 2022, Centerm is expected to complete its expansion project, which could double its capacity. These containers will be transported either by road (using a newly completed road through the port to Hwy 1) or rail. To handle this traffic, CN Rail announced in 2019 that it would twin the BI Line. However, in 2021, it decided to defer this project indefinitely.
HOW THIS IMPACTS THE STRATHCONA
- Loud slamming noises, particularly at night. Inbound trains often need to be disassembled into shorter lengths to fit into the yards. To do this, the trains are run back and forth along the BI Line. Every time the train starts and stops, slake between cars creates a loud BOOM: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7u52xyKZAU. To mitigate this problem, CN announced in June 2021 that it was installing a new piece of technology called a Python that would allow disassembly without using the BI Line. As of Dec 2021, it is still not operational.
- CN also uses the BI Line to assemble some outbound trains that are longer than it can fit within its yards, a process known as “doubling-over.” This also involves stopping the train, backing it up, and the resulting Booms. To reduce nighttime disturbance caused by assembly of these outbound trains, CN has arranged on most nights to do its assembly operations using CP owned tracks in the Port yards.
- Noise from Crossing Alarm. Whenever a train approaches the at-grade crossing at Cordova, the alarm at the crossing sounds to warn drivers and pedestrians. This alarm often is triggered when no train is actually using the crossing, creating an unnecessary nuisance for nearby residents, particularly in Strathcona Village. The city is aware of this problem and proposed a pilot to mitigate it in June 2021. To date, no plans have been announced.
- Road Blockages. The construction of the underpass at Venables has not even begun its preliminary design process. Which means that road blockages at Venables and Union crossings will continue for the next few years, likely increasing to handle Centerm’s increased capacity. This impacts not only vehicles and bikes using those streets, but causes cut-through traffic on Campbell and Glen, especially trucks using Campbell to avoid the Venables crossing altogether.
- Idling trains. The city faces a 2024 Federal mandate to close all other at-grade crossings (Cordova, Raymur, Union and Glen) so that trains can move though the neighbourhood without stopping. This creates the possibility that the line will be used for trains to idle while waiting access to the Port Yard. Idling trains are already a problem, as incoming trains have to wait for a security gate into Port property to be opened. Idling trains increase air pollution.
- Diesel Pollution. Diesel locomotive engines are a major emitter of air pollutants, particularly within one or two block proximity to the tracks. In Strathcona, this includes existing houses east of the track, Strathcona Village, Stamps social housing, the new Villa Cathay seniors home, Ray-Cam Community Centre and Seymour Elementary School, not to mention numerous residential projects already in planning, including an Indigenous housing project directly beside the track. We are aware of no plans to require or transition to less polluting locomotives, as is required in other urban ports, such as Los Angeles.