Trade with Asia takes toll on municipalities
Expansion of ports, bridges, roads costs local communities
Brian Lewis, The Province
Published: Thursday, October 12, 2006
Building infrastructure to make B.C. the country's trade gateway to Asia will certainly pay dividends nationally, but in his Vancouver announcement yesterday Prime Minister Stephen Harper paid the least attention to those who will pay the most.
With local and provincial politicians looking on, Harper confirmed his government's budget commitment to spend $591 million on more than a dozen gateway projects.
Under his Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative, most of this money will be spent in B.C. and includes Ottawa's share of funding for expansion of West Coast commercial ports, along with upgrades to bridges and roads.
Ottawa's goal here is to boost Canada's share of North American container traffic from nine to 14 per cent.
That's a huge increase in trade and the economic spinoff it will bring -- especially at the federal and provincial levels.
However, in municipal back yards south of the Fraser River, this significantly increased trade activity also carries significant costs.
Delta, for example, must deal with inevitable expansion of Deltaport and all the negative impacts it carries. These include building the 40-kilometre, four-lane South Fraser Perimeter Road from the port to 176th Street and the new Golden Ears Bridge in Surrey/Langley.
Many say this $800-million road's route will virtually destroy long-established neighbourhoods such as Sunbury and Annieville in north Delta. Some property expropriations are already under way, I'm told.
For the two Langleys, much of the impact centres on frequent three-kilometre-long coal and container trains from Deltaport choking traffic at level crossings.
Six Deltaport container trains per day now run through these municipalities in addition to 12 coal trains daily. With expansion, the number of container trains will increase to 12 by 2012 -- and the length of each of those trains is expected to increase by as much as 40 per cent.
Ottawa is prepared to contribute up to $50 million toward construction of overpasses in the Delta-Mission freight-rail corridor, where a federal study on the congestion issue is already under way.
This is a $20-million increase in Ottawa's commitment to rail overpasses and, while it may sound impressive, consider this: Previous studies have said a total of 30 overpasses must be built and the average cost per overpass is roughly $50 million. We're talking a total expenditure here of about $1.2 billion.
And, according to Delta municipal staff figures, local municipalities receive the least in revenues from our ports. Ottawa collects about $400 million annually, while Victoria receives roughly $280 million. The B.C. municipal take is $80 million and Delta's share of this amount is $2 million, or just over one-quarter of one per cent.
Not only that, but Terminal Systems Inc., which operates the Deltaport container terminal, recently appealed its Delta property taxes and the potential tax loss for city hall is as much as $1 million annually.
If you have a story idea or note-worthy item about anything going on in the Fraser Valley, you can e-mail Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org
© The Vancouver Province 2006