Rail corridor overpass program explained

The five rail overpasses to be built in or near Langley as part of the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor program are all about making it “a more connected community.”

That’s the word from engineer Robin Johnston, who is overseeing the program for the 12 partners, which include the federal, provincial and municipal governments, along with TransLink, Port Metro Vancouver and four railways.

The three projects in Langley are the “combo” project, the Mufford overpass and a 232 Street overpass, north of Highway 1.

The combo project will connect 192 Street south of the tracks to 196 Street near Willowbrook Shopping Centre. Three overpasses and several new roads will be built, with the overpasses crossing the tracks at 192 Street, 54 Avenue and 196 Street. The 196 Street overpass will cross the tracks and Highway 10, and connect on the north near 60 Avenue and 196 Street. Work on it is expected to begin next year.

The Mufford overpass has been controversial since details of it were first revealed during the 2008 municipal election campaign. A large contingent of Langley residents, particularly farmers in the Milner area, said it would put far too much urban traffic on rural roads, and alienate too much farmland.

In 2010, the Agricultural Land Commission ruled that the project could not proceed, due to concerns about its effect on the Agricultural Land Reserve. After the ruling, the province took over management of the project. The design has changed, and it now alienates less farmland and provides a connection to Glover Road, so that drivers can get on and off the overpass there.

The project is at an early stage and may not be completed by the time the program is set to expire in March, 2014. Johnston does not anticipate that being a problem for the funding partners.

The 232 Street overpass is being built primarily so the Rawlison rail siding can be extended west to cross 232 Street and accommodate trains up to 12,000 feet in length. Delivery of the project will be managed by Canadian Pacific Railway. Details will be announced shortly, Johnston said.

“The rail corridor is critical to the economy of the province, region and municipalities. It is good for business and good for the economy,” he told the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 18.

Johnston said that there are currently about 18 trains a day using the corridor, which connects the Roberts Bank port to the Canadian rail network. That number could eventually climb to 38 trains a day, with many as long as 12,000 feet.

“We’re talking about long trains and more trains, which means more disruptions at grade crossings. The growth in the population and on the roads adds to the congestion.”

Currently, the 54 grade crossings along the corridor handle 340,000 vehicles per day. That number is expected to grow to 560,000 by 2021.

A key part of the project in Langley will be the advanced train warning system. This involves signs placed at a number of important locations, which will let drivers know that if they stay on a certain road, they will be stopped by a train. This gives opportunities to detour to other routes, often where there are overpasses.

Johnston acknowledged that traffic on Langley Bypass remains an important issue, and will become more congested as both train and road traffic volumes grow. He said an overpass there was not part of the RBRC program, as locations were submitted by the funding partners and the Bypass was left off the list.

He added that the RBRC program will not be the end of improvements along the rail corridor.


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