Ten years ago, impact of trains on Langley was an afterthought

Expansion of Roberts Bank wasn't considered by the federal and provincial governments to have any impact on Langley.

The Mufford Overpass was officially opened on Thursday — the final project of the nine which are part of the $307 million Roberts Bank Rail Corridor program.

Of the nine projects along 70 kilometres of rail line, three are in Langley and two others are part of a new route designed to speed traffic in the Langley-East Surrey area.

It is important to put this project into context. Ten years ago, governments at all levels were oblivious to the challenges trains were posing to traffic in Langley. When an environmental assessment was underway for port expansion at Deltaport, the official overseeing it expressed astonishment that half the comments he received were from Langley. Langley wasn’t even considered by both the federal and provincial governments as being impacted by increased rail traffic.

Port Metro Vancouver, under Capt. Gordon Houston, actually realized the added trains were a problem before most governments did. Langley City, pushed by then-fire chief Jim McGregor, also realized that emergency vehicles could not cross the tracks and serve part of the City, should crossings be blocked. On that basis, the City started looking into an overpass.

Doug Hyde, who played an important role in getting the  initial 204 Street overpass project underway, said Thursday that the success of that overpass, which had minimal funding from senior governments and none from the railway companies, was a key factor in getting the overall Roberts Bank program underway.

Unfortunately, the three major roads in Langley which are crossed by the rail line still don’t have overpasses. Highway 10 (Langley Bypass), 200 Street and Fraser Highway traffic continues to be held up by trains, and there will be significantly more of them in the future, due to further expansion at Roberts Bank.

An early warning system, still to be set up, will alert local drivers when a train is expected and it should alleviate some of the congestion at the three major crossings.

The new Mufford Overpass already offers the opportunity get off Glover Road onto Mufford when a train is passing — something the initial design did not include.

Former Langley Township mayor Rick Green gets very little credit from citizens for accomplishments during his three-year term, largely because of his combatative personality and ongoing battles with most members of council during his term, but it was his initiative to have a real debate about the Mufford Overpass.

Although he was unsuccessful in having council reconsider it,  he and the two members of council who supported him (Councillors Mel Kositsky and Kim Richter) played an instrumental role in the Agricultural Land Commission rejecting the initial plans for the overpass.

The reworked plans, with a connection to Glover Road, alienated far less farmland and the new overpass will not divert urban traffic onto rural roads, such as 64 Avenue, east of 216 Street.

Pioneer farmer Hugh Davis was at Thursday’s official ceremony. It was fitting. He has closely watched a great deal of change in his 90 years on the Davis farm. He celebrated his 90th birthday at a large gathering on Saturday. Happy birthday, Hugh.

Langley Times