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Ashcroft Terminal could ease port's big farmland appetite

Inland terminals would mitigate need to sort goods in Metro Vancouver's farm belt.
Roberts Bank Terminal II
Roberts Bank Terminal II Vancouver Sun infograph. 2014.

Transporting containers from Roberts Bank Terminal to Ashcroft via rail for sorting could ease truck traffic in Metro Vancouver and help mitigate the desire to develop the region’s limited farmland for industrial purposes.

That’s what Bob Landucci, president and CEO of the recently expanded Ashcroft Terminal, contended in a presentation to Richmond city councillors Monday evening.

Although the majority of containers at Roberts Bank are already put on rail, according to Port Metro Vancouver, about one quarter are moved via trucks to local sorters before being sent outside the region.

Sending that 25 per cent by rail to Ashcroft could help lessen pressure to build a new bridge (at the Massey Tunnel) as well as develop 100 hectares of farmland in east Richmond over the long term.

“We see what’s happening with the port as ultimately encroaching on agricultural land. And, also, there’s the transportation aspect. In part, they’re building a multi-million dollar bridge for (truck traffic),” stated Mayor Malcolm Brodie.

Richmond has also recently voiced concerns over Port Metro Vancouver’s lack of public oversight.

Councillors invited Landucci to Richmond to explain the logic behind the Ashcroft Terminal.

Landucci noted that with the proposed expansion of Roberts Bank Terminal (annual container capacity will double from 2.4 to 4.8 million containers per year), sorting goods heading east and raw materials heading west, at Ashcroft Terminal, would ease traffic congestion and reduce land demand for PMV.

Landucci’s site was recently expanded to include 1,500 metres of railcar storage, among many upgrades, at a cost of $7.2 million. Half of the money came from the federal government.

 “Some of these flows we can simplify,” said Landucci.

But Landucci told councillors that Duncan Wilson, the port's vice-president of corporate social responsibility, stated publicly at the Vancouver Board of Trade that the port was not interested in working with Ashcroft Terminal.

“This (terminal) can be for Metro Vancouver what Prince George is for Prince Rupert,” explained Landucci.

Also at issue is if the Roberts Bank Terminal is doubled in size, as is proposed, PMV does not want the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to consider the impact of road and rail traffic and pollution outside of its real property line.

The City of Richmond has written a letter of support to the Corporation of Delta in opposing the port’s stance.

Delta Mayor Lois Jackson said her “number one concern” for Delta was traffic and she wanted “inland ports,” such as Ashcroft, to be considered as an option alongside terminal expansion.