TERRACE MAYOR David Pernarowski said that recent revelations about the B.C. government's backup plan to transport Alberta bitumen by rail through Terrace to the coast as an alternative to pipelines is not going to affect how the city negotiates for the ever elusive second overpass in Terrace.
Recent discussion of rail transport for oil sands product have centred around the terms of reference of a high level government working group aimed at opening new energy export opportunities, which states “if pipelines are not developed, rail will step into the void to deliver bitumen to the west coast.”
Even though the province has made it clear that rail isn't a preferred method for transporting oil products to the coast, the admission of provisional support of such a plan raises questions about how towns would deal with the huge increase in rail traffic.
According to Pernarowski, Terrace's need for a second grade separation doesn't rest on oil by rail traffic alone and has more to do with increased cargo coming to and from the expanding port in Prince Rupert and other industrial activity bringing increased truck and rail traffic through the area.
“Those are two separate discussions. We haven’t had any government officials come to us and talk to us about that potential [of oil by rail]. What we are talking to them about is the port expansion, the development of the Ridley terminal, road and rail and utility expansion. That's going to increase train traffic just for containers out of the Prince Rupert port.”
Pernarowski also said that Terrace city council would most likely not lend its support for oil transportation to the coast in the first place.
“I think the discussion about moving oil by rail is one that council hasn't had, but I just don't see there being too much difference in terms of the reasons for the opposition to piping oil, for example. Council has talked quite a bit about the dangers that would pose on the environment. No matter how you transport it to the coast you still have to ship it, which is the main concern that people, particularly First Nations, have about moving bitumen or oil product across western Canada.”
“We haven't let our foot off the pedal on that one at all,” said Pernarowski of a second overpass. “We're not going to back off because we are concerned about what they are putting on the trains. It's about all the projects in conjunction with each other that's causing this problem in Terrace. The second overpass is going to need to happen. We feel it needs to happen sooner than later so we are properly prepared.”
At the recent Union of British Columbia Municipalities meeting in Vancouver, city councillors had several meetings with provincial ministers regarding the improvement of traffic flow in the Terrace area.
“We specifically discussed the long-term need for a second grade separation with [transportation] minister Todd Stone during UBCM and again when he visited Terrace on October 3,” said chief administrative officer Heather Avison.
According to Avison, city councillors also told premier Christy Clark and minister of community, sport and cultural development Coralee Oakes during their revenue sharing discussion about the need for transportation infrastructure.
Avison said the city wants the province to bring local governments, CN Rail, the Prince Rupert Port Authority, and other relevant stakeholders together to “conduct the analysis of transportation corridor infrastructure impacts on communities along the Highway 16 road and rail corridor in the northwest.”
“Minister Stone indicated during our meeting that they are in the early stages of developing a framework to do this analysis and that the province would ensure we were included in the process. We have not heard anything further,” added Avison.
Council members also spoke to NDP transportation critic Claire Trevena about the need for a second overpass and other transportation issues.
With files form Shaun Thomas