By R. Bruce Striegler

To ensure port reliability and an increase in throughput capacity, Port Metro Vancouver and its partners are leveraging provincial and federal funding for a generational investment in supply chain infrastructure. The Trade Areas Program is improving the supply chain beyond traditional port activities and lands. The improvements are divided through three designated trade areas, the North Shore Trade Area, THE South Shore Trade Area and the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor.

Enhancing road and rail in the North Shore Trade Area

The North Shore Trade Area is located on Burrard Inlet, bordering the City of North Vancouver and the District of North Vancouver. The area includes cargo terminals for forestry, mining and agricultural exports, which generate about 12,300 based-in-B.C. jobs, 5,000 of which are located on the North Shore itself.

The Brooksbank Avenue Underpass, completed in February 2012, is one of the recent outcomes of the North Shore improvements. The project consisted of modifying the existing underpass to accommodate several additional rail tracks over the new structure. The project included construction of a new rail bridge over Lynn Creek to improve access to and from Neptune Terminals and Lynnterm Terminal-West Gate. A new pedestrian walkway was built under the rail bridge to connect the trails in Harbourview Park to the rest of the Lynn Creek trail system.

Low Level Road is the next phase of North Shore improvements. In partnership with the federal government, TransLink, the City of North Vancouver, CP and CN, Port Metro Vancouver has been working closely with its partners to define the project’s requirements.

“The Low Level Road is a primary, continuous East-West route along the Port’s North Shore, used by port operators, businesses, residents, cyclists and pedestrians, so it was important that we consulted extensively with stakeholders and the community,” says Sheri Plewes, Port Metro Vancouver’s Vice-President of Infrastructure Delivery. “The improvements will meet growing domestic and international trade demands and address long-standing community concerns related to traffic congestion, safety, slope stability and train-related noise.”

The final project design will elevate the existing Low Level Road and move the alignment North. This will provide space for two new rail tracks, eliminate three at-grade crossings and improve intersection and road safety. Additionally, the Low Level Road improvements will allow for the completion of the Spirit Trail, the North Shore’s waterfront greenway.

Efficiency and safety enhancements in the South Shore Trade Area

The South Shore Trade Area incorporates the Port’s facilities and operations on the Southern shore of Burrard Inlet. The South Shore Trade Area contains the main access roads to the port and other industrial enterprises and contains the Canadian Pacific rail line, which connects the Port to the rest of Canada. The area is a major employment generator for the Lower Mainland supporting marine, rail and trucking industries.

“Through our South Shore Corridor Project, we are working to enhance port operations in this busy area and to provide future rail-capacity improvements. The improvements will also reduce traffic and related impacts of port operations on local streets,” explains Plewes. This area is one of two high-priority projects identified by Port Metro Vancouver, the City of Vancouver, Canadian Pacific, CN and Transport Canada.

Key elements of the work include a new Stewart Street elevated road which will offer an alternate route for through traffic to ease congestion on the Port’s internal road system. The project is also improving safety for port workers with a new pedestrian rail overpass at Victoria Street, which will also reduce train switching noise within the area.

Other components of the project include realigning or reconfiguring several other municipal streets or roadways in the area. Plewes says that these improvements will facilitate long-term improvements to rail capacity, reduce train-related noise and better manage local traffic and Port traffic while reducing congestion. “We’re also including corridor-wide improvements like upgraded signage, installation of Intelligent Transportation Systems and fibre-optic cable upgrades.”

After working closely with the local community, the project design has been finalized and construction has begun. The construction is estimated to cost $75 million and it is targeted to finish in December 2013.

Connectivity in the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor

Roberts Bank, South of Vancouver near the Canada-U.S. border, is the location of two major Port Metro Vancouver terminals. Deltaport is the site of Canada’s largest container terminal and Westshore Terminals is the largest single export coal terminal in North America. Roberts Bank is connected to the North American rail network by a rail corridor that passes through five separate Lower Mainland municipalities using at-grade public road crossings. The at-grade crossings limit operational rail efficiency and present challenges to local farmers and residents.

Sheri Plewes explains that the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program includes one rail siding project and eight overpasses in Delta, Surrey, the City of Langley and the Township of Langley. “The overpasses will improve the efficiency of rail operations and, in turn, the overall efficiency of the port,” says Plewes. The overpasses will also separate road and rail traffic, improve safety, ease community connections and minimize train whistles.

The unprecedented close collaboration among stakeholders has resulted in an overall package of road and rail improvements of approximately $360 million, cost-shared among the various partners. All nine projects are underway and will be complete by 2014.

“Operations and facilities located at Roberts Bank are key to Canada’s Asia-Pacific trade,” says Plewes. “Once the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor improvements are complete, not only will local residents get a safer road, but the movement of goods will be enhanced and streamlined.”