Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Ecologically speaking, Rupert seems to be the answer!

With traffic congestion in Vancouver growing daily, the Premier’s concern over green house gases now a fixation and local resistance to an expansion of the Delta Port container facility growing, North Coast MLA Gary Coons has a simple solution, increase the capacity of the Fairview Container Terminal.

Coons outlined his thoughts on the controversial issue of a highway running through an environmentally fragile area of Delta, one of the planned highway improvements suggested with the expansion of container facilities in the South Fraser area of Metropolitan Vancouver.

The expansion of the South Fraser container facilities has been a hot topic of late in the Vancouver area, with many local residents wondering why the government wishes to see increased congestion and pollution in Vancouver, when there’s no such issue in Prince Rupert which is primed for further expansion of Fairview Terminal, which is not yet working at full capacity.

Coons makes the case for Prince Rupert as the logical solution to many Lower Mainland woes, pointing to the port’s reliance on rail transportation over truck.

In the Prince Rupert set up, containers arriving at Fairview for the most part are direct loaded onto CN container trains, quickly set for transit to North American destinations.

The Fairview approach is a change in the normal routine for container traffic. The process in Prince Rupert takes out the middle man if you will, of local haulers which move containers to different staging areas in the Lower Mainland. It’s an approach that eliminates a massive flow of truck traffic that regularly in Vancouver can at times clog approach roads and add to the greenhouse gas bubble over the South Fraser area.

It will be an interesting balancing act for the Premier to walk, on one part it seems to fit in perfectly with his desires for a more pro active approach to the environment, but politically the idea of removing industry and jobs from the Lower Mainland is not one that can work for you come election day.

For the moment though, if the topic is just the environmental balance you are looking at, then the Coons suggestions indeed do seem quite logical. As an employment and industrial generator, a shift from Vancouver to Rupert would also make for a change in the North coast economic picture as well.

Monday’s Daily News featured his thoughts on Fairview expansion and how it could benefit any number of issues.

Rupert the logical solution: Coons
The Daily News
Monday, January 28, 2008
Page one

There's no reason for the province to consider building a highway through Delta's Burns Bog when the Port of Prince Rupert is still not operating at full capacity, says North Coast MLA Gary Coons.

The government of British Columbia has already received strong opposition in response to the proposed construction of the South Fraser Perimeter Highway, a $1-billion provincial highway that would run through a rare environmental area known as Crescent Slough. The highway would be a four-lane, 40-kilometre stretch connecting Highway 1 in Surrey to Roberts Bank in Delta, something Environment Canada says would severely damage or destroy the ecologically crucial bog.

“This flies in the face of common sense,” said Coons.

Fairview Terminals has excess capacity and the potential to expand. Scientists are saying ‘no’ to the South Fraser Perimeter road, Delta residents are saying ‘no’ to the road. Environment Canada is saying ‘no’ to the road. It’s time for the Campbell government to expand their narrow focus and look to Prince Rupert to solve our province’s transportation problems.”

Coons echoed some of the sentiments already put forth by his southern NDP colleagues, who harshly criticized the Liberal government last week for pushing the project forward without waiting for scientists to respond. The primary purpose of the proposed highway will be to handle the increased container-truck traffic from the expansion of Deltaport’s Third Berth Project, predicted to reach 2,400 trucks traveling to and from the port by the time Deltaport’s Third Berth Project is complete in 2011.

“Why pave over an ecologically sensitive reserve and jam more traffic onto an already congested area?” asked Coons. “The Lower Mainland is in the throes of a labour shortage, and the North Coast with the highest unemployment in the province, could use the economic stimulus that a port operating a full capacity would bring. Everybody wins if the province pays attention to Prince Rupert.”

He also cast a critical eye at the recently unveiled Transportation Plan unveiled by the premier, saying it does little to help communities outside of the Lower Mainland and capital regions. Coons believes if the Fairview Terminals and the northern corridor were fully utilized, provincial emissions would be reduced substantially, something he says highlights the government’s feigned interest in reducing B. C.’s carbon footprint. He points to reduced sailing times from Asia and Fairview Terminal’s on-doc rail operations as contributing to lower emissions because less fuel is needed by ocean-going vessels and the need for trucks is virtually eliminated by the efficient rail system.

“We’re more than a day’s sailing time closer to Asia than the next nearest terminal, and we are directly linked to the largest rail network in North America,” said Coons. “Rerouting ships from congested ports in the Lower Mainland to Prince Rupert makes sense socially, economically and environmentally. Why add thousands more polluting container trucks to the equation from Delta when the logical solution is Prince Rupert?

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