Thursday, July 31, 2008

By pass or bridge, where will the support go?

A lively debate as they say, at the most recent City Council meeting as Councillor Tony Briglio once again raised the desire to see a truck bypass get to the planning stages. Briglio who has concerns over the amount of truck traffic that runs from the container port to points east urged the Mayor and council to consider laying the ground work for the route which would bypass the downtown core completely.

While the container port for the most part is expected to direct load trains out of Fairview there is still expected to be some container traffic heading mainly for the CBSA inspection warehouse which Quickload Terminals currently operates on Watson Island, an new warehouse is under construction on Ridley which at the moment would still require trucks to transit the city to gain access to the new site.

The concern for the councillor is that with Phase Two expected to add significantly to the container load for the port, the traffic load will likewise increase and Briglio would like to see the city get ahead of the curve on the issue.

While considering the container issue as important, the Mayor however is more inclined to try and spend any infrastructure dollars on the long cherished link to the Digby Island airport, a major project that always seems to come to life again just as an election is about to roll around.

The Daily News outlined the two positions in Wednesday's paper.

Councillor looking to gear-up bypass lobbying
By George Baker
The Daily News
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Pages one and three

Monday's council meeting at city hall saw some colourful discussion as Councillor Tony Briglio and Mayor Herb Pond went back and forth over the possibility of the construction of a new truck bypass route to the Port of Prince Rupert.

The differences in opinion stems from the desire to divert container truck traffic entering and leaving the Fairview Container Terminal.

The main concern is that truck traffic will only get worse by the time the Prince Rupert Port Authority (PRPA) moves into the second phase of its growth plan for Fairview Container Terminal.

Once that finishes, both agreed that the city would need a proper truck bypass from the port to outside the city limits.

But things got fairly heated when Briglio questioned whether or not the city was doing its best to stay on top of the issue.

"Once the second phase is built, it will be too late to do. I'll tell you that if one of my kids was hurt or killed by a truck on the road that will be the last thing we want," said Briglio.
That did not sit well with Pond.

Mayor Pond cautioned Briglio about prioritizing the bypass over more pressing issues, none more important than upgrading access from Prince Rupert Airport on Digby Island.
Pond responded by saying that Briglio did not completely understand what was necessary in petitioning the provincial and federal government for funding to build city projects.

"With frustration you will bring us back to when we got nothing," said Pond.

According to Pond, the airport currently runs an annual deficit of $1 million and he believes that better travel from the Airport on Digby Island to Prince Rupert on Kaien Island would improve the airport's finances.

Briglio put forward the motion to bring up the truck bypass issue once every second public council meeting. Briglio wanted the motion passed because he wanted to make sure the city was on top of the issue.

Not surprisingly, after much questioning and the absence of two councillors, the motion was defeated by a vote of two-to-one.

Briglio countered Pond by saying that he and felt the council was being kept in the dark about the issue.

"You know what you have been doing, Mayor. But I do not," said Briglio.

Pond believes that the city needs to approach both the B.C. and Canadian governments with a 10-item wish-list that prioritizes what the city wants financial support for.

He said, that way the government knows what the city really needs and will respond much faster to such requests.

"If you ask for one thing then later ask for another then what you end up with is nothing. They will not respond. We have to do it the right way."

According to port authority spokesperson Barry Bartlett, the port is taking a wait-and-see approach on the truck bypass issue.

"We are not going to get a sense of what the truck traffic is until Phase 2 (of the port expansion), which we are a ways away from," said Bartlett.

Until then, the PRPA would rather wait to see what the discussion and decision comes to between the city and the ministry of transportation.

It was noted at the meeting that currently there is a 10 per cent decrease in container truck traffic. But that is considered a lull and not a good indication of the future load that will need to be addressed.

However, most of the container traffic leaving Prince Rupert is via rail lines because of the intermodal system on the docks. That system takes the containers off the docked ships and places them immediately on a train for further shipment.

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