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CONTRIBUTION · 18th October 2011
Merv Ritchie
This is a response to a question to all Mayoral Candidates posted on the Municipal election page, found by clicking Here.
On September 10, 2007, the West Kieth Business Association addressed these concerns to the City Council of the day. Nothing has happened since then. They raised significant concerns about the upcoming completion of the Port at Prince Rupert. Read their concerns in detail by clicking here.

A full four years later, on September 19, 2011, BC Premier Christy Clark was in Prince Rupert to make a $90 million investment announcement. The specifics were rather convoluted but it falls out this way. CN would be committing one third, $30 million to roads and rail infrastructure. The Port of Prince Rupert (Mayer Terminals) was committing a third as well. The BC Government was only committing one half of the final third ($15 million). The federal government is expected to kick in the other $15 million.

When this announcement was made I asked Premier Clark about the specific use of these funds.

"On this 90 million dollar investment here, have you got specifics? I know that in Terrace they are looking for a rail overpass. We have a railway crossing here that could be part of CN's contribution, but do you have specifics on where this money is targeted?"

Premier Clark replied she could get the specifics to us on each of the partners contribution, and from the federal government should they decide to contribute, but could not answer directly. She then referred me to Minister Pat Bell. Bell did have specifics. All the money committed was specifically for the new "Break Bulk" and shipping terminal on Ridley Island. Nothing was set aside for the rail route.

Read about the investment announcement here.

Of great concern to the citizens in Terrace should be this planned expansion. The plan is to increase the capacity by a factor of over 5. Five times the amount of rail traffic; from 18 million tons of cargo to 100 million tons. The implications are obvious.

Two crossings need to be constructed in Terrace. A pedestrian crossing wide enough for two lanes of pedestrian, bicycle, electric operated wheelchairs and scooters at a location near the downtown core. An Ideal location would be at the foot of Kalum Street near the George Little House. This would also have been a great location for a vehicle crossing however the width of the rail yard is too extensive. Even the pedestrian crossing will present difficulties however if the desire is there this can be resolved.

The second vehicle crossing, in my opinion, should be constructed at the Nisga'a highway intersection. There is enough land to construct this along with a cloverleaf. The difficulties are complicated. Legal documents are in place on the titles of some of the land at this location that impose significant hurdles to overcome. These discussions would all be "In Camera" as developers and real estate speculators take advantage of advanced knowledge of government plans.

CN does not pay taxes on the rail line thoroughfare in Terrace. This is an issue of historical significance. It was a factor 100 years ago this year when the construction of the original Grand Trunk railway took place. Story Here.

CN does pay taxes on the land and buildings east of the Sande Overpass. According to the City Finance Officer Ron Bowles, this amounted to just under $200,000 in 2011.

The CN President and CEO Claude Mongeau attended the investment announcement in Prince Rupert to confirm CN's $30 million dollar investment and their commitment to the expansion but did not have anything to add about the required infrastructure east of Ridley Terminal.

In a conversation with CN spokesperson Warren Chandler today, he stated CN does not build overpasses. It is the local governments that decide where and when to build an overpass. Chandler couldn't talk about any negotiations that may or may not be happening or to any financial commitments. He simply and clearly stated this is not their issue. The discussions start with the local governments.

Generally these projects require the City to pay a third along with the higher levels of governments and posssibly CN. I personally disagree with any amount being contributed by the City. The City receives no economic benefit.

We have deaths of pedestrians crossing the tracks and interruptions to traffic and the free flow of economic activity completely unrelated to the rail system. The Federal and Provincial governments and CN all receive significant financial benefit. It is their responsibility and duty to pay to protect the City from potential deaths and the negative economic impacts.

Tractor (Backhoe) hit by train at Frank Street crossing.

Man and Train encounter
Terrace overpasses.
Comment by Janice P. Robinson on 18th October 2011
The Sande overpass did nothing for downtown businesses.
If yet another overpass creates further opportunity for foreign traffic to detour Terrace, the traffic will take it. We're not that special, and it is imperative that we ensnare every dollar we can...... Time for Timmy's to think of yet another Terrace location.

I bring this up, because I was once asked to take part in a potential revival of the best fast food the north. Better than A & W and MacDonalds, put togetther.

As we witnessed the Sande overpass plans coming to fruition, I whined, "God laughs at my plans, again." Like the co-op, the building died a slow death, just west of the old Skeena Bridge (which we love).
CN responds
Comment by Merv Ritchie on 18th October 2011
We sent the link to the story directly to CN's media relations spokesperson, Warren Chandler. He took exception to the way we reelected his statement stating;

"I never said this was not a CN issue, since it would involve our rail line it would involve us. What I thought we were discussing were the detail of a specific project, and those are discussions you should be having with the municipality and/or Province."

And he is correct, it is a CN issue in that an overpass would cross their tracks, it is simply not their issue to initiate a resolution for.

We have sent a followup email requesting further information which might help enlighten our readers and the community of Terrace.
The devil is in the details.
Comment by Helmut Giesbrecht on 18th October 2011
There are some other dimensions to this issue. When the highway went down Lakelse Avenue the HIghways Ministry was responsible for all maintenance along Lakelse. It was the through-road to Prince Rupert. After the new bridge was opened along with the Sande Stree Overpass they dedicated Keith Avenue as the highway and the City took over the responsibility for Lakelse. There was even talk of removing the old Skeena Bridge. Fortunately the Highways Ministry kept the Old Skeena Bridge after some lobbying by locals but, for a few years, until it was changed after more lobbying, Terrace was responsible for the crossing over the railway on the west side of the old Skeena Bridge. The Terrace boundary for responsibility is now just west of that small railway overpass.

Here is a point to consider. If Highways builds an overpass somewhere west of the Sande Street overpass and reroutes the through traffic to Prince Rupert, would Terrace then be responsible for the Sande Street Overpass. That may not seem like a big liability but what if it needs repairs or replacement?

Another point to consider is what effect will directing traffic to Rupert by and alternate route have on the business between Sande Street Overpass and where the highway meets the old route, say at Frank Street.