ACRD Continues study of Highway Alternatives for Raven Coal and Port Traffic

On February 27th the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District tabled a new report (the 4th route study since 2012) detailing an eastern ‘ring road’ connecting Highway 4 at the entrance to Port Alberni to a road that enters Port Alberni to the south more directly towards the Port Authority and industrial areas on the waterfront.

These routes are meant to keep truck traffic, mainly from Raven Coal if that project is approved, off City of Port Alberni streets as much as possible.

According to the report:

R.  F.  Binnie  and  Associates  Ltd.  were asked  to  do  a  route  study  and conceptual  design  for  a  road connecting  Highway  4  to  Franklin  River  Road.

Some work on this route was already done by Island Timberlands in conjunction with the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) and the City of Port Alberni and several options were roughed in….

This study looked at the options presented, determined their feasibility, and developed projects cost estimates for the routes that were deemed feasible by Binnie.

The Report produced 3 estimates costing $17 Million, $20 Million and $27 Million.

Here are the routes:


Shows proposed routes from Highway 4 to two points on Franklin River Road.
Shows proposed routes from Highway 4 to two points on Franklin River Road.  Also shown, major creeks, and City of Port Alberni Bainbridge Lake Reservoir.

As can be seen, these routes would rely on existing logging roads much like the Horne Lake Connector routes but still require significant construction.  In particular this route requires building 2 large bridges over local creeks which would require “a detailed environmental investigation”.  Also “the design has to take into account storm water management to ensure contaminated water does not enter any stream that enters the reservoir” at Bainbridge Lake.

By contrast, the Island Railway already exists.  Upgrading and repairing the mainline and Alberni subdivision requires no environmental impact assessments.  Also note this ring road only removes truck traffic from City of Port Alberni streets.  Since the trucks would turn off Highway 4 near Coombs Country Candy, if this road was completed without the Horne Lake Connector, then there would be nothing done for the increase of traffic on Highway 4 through Cameron Lake, Cathedral Grove and over the Hump.  That means the safety issues remain.

But what this new study provides most of all is a full cost of the whole highway plan.

Highway Plans
Horne Lake Connector “Coupler” Route: $65 Million
Ring Road Route: $17-27Million
Total cost: $82-$92 Million for 33-35km of new highway

Island Railway Plans
Full Victoria to Courtenay to Alberni repair:  $100 Million for 300km
Just for Raven Coal (Buckley Bay to Alberni): $40 Million

With a $40 Million investment by Government over the proposed 16 year lifespan of the Raven coal mine if it produces at its potential , the investment would be payed back in full.

The ring road, like other road projects, will rely on gas taxes to recoup costs… though in reality, non-toll highways are never fully payed back.
Railway projects are unique in this ability to be payed off so quickly and directly.  Highway projects do not have this ability.

Screen Shot 2013-03-04 at 9.14.01 PM

This Highway would also help open up Port Alberni Port Authority to more Asia Pacific Gateway traffic.  So too, would a rehabilitated Railway corridor.

Alberni Port considers Containers and Short Sea Shipping

A great Article from @PAPortAuthority on Short Sea Shipping opportunities for #alberni #VI appeared in the AV Times today.

Check it out!

So, what is a Container Trans Shipment and Short Sea Shipping Terminal? The basic premise of such an operation is to attract a significant percentage of the approximately 20 Million TEUs (twenty foot equivalent unit containers) – and growing annually – sailing within reach of the Alberni Inlet along the Great Northern Pacific Sailing Route destined to Vancouver, Seattle-Tacoma, Portland, LA-Long Beach and points in between.

Ships’ containers would be offloaded in the Alberni Inlet at a new, modern terminal facility, sorted and barged directly to their specific distribution hubs in the Fraser River, for example, or directly to the next transportation mode, such as rail, in the logistics chain. Let’s not also forget the great sense it makes to receive cargo from Asia on Vancouver Island for Vancouver Island destinations as the population of “our little island” is projected to rapidly increase towards one million residents.

This project has excellent potential to reshape the face of transportation for not only the Alberni Valley but Vancouver Island as a whole. It would be doubly interesting if TEUs destined for Vancouver Island actually got here first and did not need to ever set foot in the Lower Mainland, but that is perhaps asking too much.

Either way though, a revitalized and vibrant rail connection could be greatly enhance the possibilities of this venture even if the Terminal itself is located far from the rail terminus. Indeed it is far from any highway as it sounds as though it will be somewhere down the Alberni Inlet.

Supplies and logistics would need to come to Port Alberni first to get to the Terminal.

Clearly this service would be using links with Seaspan and Southern Railway of BC to get these containers to their distribution points in the Lower Mainland and to connect to the Continental rail network, these companies are part of the Washington Group of Companies as is Southern Railway of Vancouver Island.

UPDATED No Declines!- Freight Service Declines as we wait for Funding

UPDATE: January 8 2013

According to reports to VIFreightbyrail and news reports on CTV News Vancouver Island, the Chemainus Bridge is being inspected regularly and is still good to go. Standard practice of using empty (“idler”) cars to space out heavy cars will be the name of the game. Service to Top Shelf will continue.

Here is the CTV Vancouver Island News report:

A possible bad start to the new year. There have been news reports (though links have since become unavailable Times Colonist article here) that there are serious issues with the Chemainus River Bridge.

Picture of the Chemainus River Bridge from the Phase 2 Document of the 2012 Bridge Assessment
Picture of the Chemainus River Bridge from the Phase 2 Document of the 2012 Bridge Assessment

Shutting down this bridge would mean Southern Rail of Vancouver Island would not be able to serve their largest and most loyal customer Top Shelf Inc. (A grain distributor). News reports have also indicated the rise in costs by moving to trucking might put Top Shelf in financial dire straits.

Whether the bridge is actually closed and Top Shelf cutoff remains to be seen, but with this news coming out, it is clear repairs are desperately needed.

The closure of the bridge would not be of great surprise. The Bridge Assessment Reports done in 2012 singled out the Chemainus Bridge as needing immediate replacement at a cost of $2.4 Million in order to sustain freight traffic.

Below are the relevant graphics from that report (Page 170):

Screen Shot 2013-01-07 at 10.13.52 PM

It is unclear whther the $3.2 Million recently committed by the Regional District and others for Bridge repairs includes the $2.4 Million for replacing the Chemainus Bridge. Whether other work can be shifted or redirected from the $20.9 Million total in track and bridge repairs so that replacement of this bridge can happen ASAP is also unclear but VIFreightbyrail will try to find out.

What should be crystal clear now is that this infrastructure is on the brink. We need the repairs to the railway to happen before it is too late.

Below are the projected costs for the Passenger and Freight loadings. Note that while it says it’s only out to 2021, because the Bridge is recommended to be replaced, if it is replaced it would be sufficient for at least 50 years without further identified needs.

Cost Breakdown for repairs or replacement of Chemainus River rail Bridge
Cost Breakdown for repairs or replacement of Chemainus River rail Bridge