Work is now complete on 14 of 17 projects carried out under the $717-million Gateway Improvement Program. Drawing on extensive analysis of road and rail activity, this multi-stakeholder program targets obstructions to capacity and fluidity within three essential locations: Roberts Bank, the North Shore Trade Area and the South Shore Trade Area, while also minimizing impacts to local communities. In collaboration with stakeholders, Port Metro Vancouver was responsible for delivering three projects, while contributing funding and support for several others. “These improvements have increased the flexibility and capacity of the entire supply chain,” says Cliff Stewart, Vice President of Infrastructure Delivery. “They’ve also reduced the impacts of port-related commercial traffic and improved mobility in local communities.” The three remaining projects are scheduled for completion by the fall of 2015.

Roberts Bank

The two major objectives of the program devised for this vital trade area mitigate the impact of commercial traffic associated with the rapidly increasing throughputs at these terminals and improve the safety and livability of local communities. The improvements also accommodate the continued growth associated with the construction of a third berth and other upgrades at Deltaport container terminal and the proposed Roberts Bank Terminal 2.

The program, called the Roberts Bank Rail Corridor Program, focuses on a 50-kilometre rail corridor connecting the container and coal terminals at Roberts Bank in Delta with the North American rail network. The multi-stakeholder agreement involves a $307-million investment in the construction of eight overpasses, an allowance for two new railway sidings, and one early warning rail crossing system project. According to Stewart, other than the new sidings that allow trains of up to 12,000 feet to meet and pass, “the program was largely designed to have a positive impact on local road traffic since people had to stop and wait for the trains.”

All eight overpass projects are now complete and were delivered on schedule and on budget.

The final component, the early warning rail crossing system, will provide information about train-related road closures on some of the remaining at-grade crossings. The information will be broadcast on signs placed at the approaches to the crossings to notify drivers of approaching trains, allowing motorists to better plan their route and avoid train-related delays. Partially funded by Port Metro Vancouver, the program is led by TransLink and is to be delivered in early 2015.

In addition to these projects, the South Fraser Perimeter Road, a $1.3 billion project, led by the provincial government with significant financial contribution from the federal government, has contributed additional capacity to the Roberts Bank trade area and improved the flow of local traffic. The four-lane roadway connects all major crossing of the Fraser River and has significantly increased the fluidity of cargo movements within the gateway.

South Shore Trade Area

Two major projects worth $125 million that enhance current road transportation capacity and future rail transportation capacity, particularly for containers, have been delivered in the South Shore Trade Area, located on the south shore of Burrard Inlet in Vancouver. Port Metro Vancouver led the delivery of the $75 million South Shore Corridor Project that included an 800-metre elevated roadway over ten railway sidings, realigned roads and utilities in order to provide space for additional future railway lines to enter the Port, and provided a pedestrian footbridge over a mainline railway. “The roadway overpass was particularly important,” says Stewart, “because it eliminated the ten busiest at-grade railway crossings that impeded truckers most on their way to the Vanterm and Centerm container terminals.” Construction of the footbridge over the railway tracks will reduce the disturbance to the community caused by the current at-grade crossing, and also allow Canadian Pacific to more efficiently assemble longer train transfers within the South Shore Trade Area. According to Stewart, “this could save their railcars as much as a day of transit on trips to Eastern Canada.” Much of this project is complete, with final delivery of the pedestrian footbridge scheduled for the end of 2014.

The second major South Shore Trade Area component was the Powell Street overpass that was delivered by the City of Vancouver in partnership with Port Metro Vancouver. This $50 million project provided grade separation at the Burrard Inlet railway line that trains serving the United States use to access the trade area. Additionally, the project realigned Powell Street to allow the future provision of an overpass over the remaining at-grade railway sidings within the trade area which could positively impact truck operation efficiencies when serving Centerm. This project was completed in July 2014.

North Shore Trade Area

A total of $283 million has been invested in improvements to road and rail infrastructure in Burrard Inlet’s North Shore Trade Area. Designed to increase the capacity of this vital trade corridor, the six projects planned for this area will also increase the efficiency of cargo movements, and mitigate the impacts of commercial traffic on local communities.

Port Metro Vancouver is responsible for the project on Low Level Road, which provides for the realignment of Low Level Road and the construction of a new overpass that will allow additional rail expansion and remove an at-grade crossing.

The $100 million project is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2014. According to Stewart, the improvements are already paying dividends. “We’re already seeing the capacity expansion being used,” he says, noting that it comes just in time to handle the increase in shipments of coal and phosphate rock imports through the newly expanded Neptune Terminal. It will also accommodate increased throughput at Richardson Terminal, where 28 new grain silos are under construction.

The only remaining project is the Phillips Avenue overpass, to be delivered by the District of North Vancouver, which began this summer and is scheduled to be complete next fall.

What Next?

Following the federal government’s announcement of the New Build Canada Plan, and, in particular, the National Infrastructure Component, work is underway to identify priority gateway-related projects in the region for consideration within the plan. Improvements would focus on providing gateway capacity and efficiencies needed to handle anticipated cargo volumes while providing net benefits to local communities.

In particular, Port Metro Vancouver has already started working on the next set of major capital investment in supply chain improvements. The organization is working collaboratively with Transport Canada, TransLink, the Province of BC, local municipalities and industry stakeholders to address road and rail improvements to the Fraser River Corridor, the fourth designated Gateway Trade Area. “The majority of the projects we’re envisioning would support bulk cargo movements,” says Stewart, “because that’s where the vast majority of growth in throughput will occur.”