Pitt Meadows homes could be just 7.5 metres from passing freight trains as a result of a planned third rail line, a City response released this week said.
CP Rail’s recent Notice of Railway Works (NRW) says it will move ahead with a third rail line through the community, regardless of the outcome of the Harris Road underpass project.
The City released its official response at Tuesday’s council meeting, listing a string of potential negative impacts from the planned rail line, and noting that there was little data from CP Rail about how those impacts might be mitigated.
Justin Hart, manager of major projects for the city, explained that this recent NRW has brought several new pieces of information to light about the third rail line, including:
• New bends on the siding, lead, and mainline tracks
• Significant portions of the mainline track being relocated
• Information about cut, fill, preload, soil anchors, and drainage
“No quantitative data of any substance nor any technical studies were provided to justify the design, nor any identification of any mitigation measures,” said Hart.
“Therefore, there is a lack of detail to fully assess the impact of the railway works.”
The NRW contained no proximity dimensions, but the city estimated that the nearest track could be 7.5m away from existing houses, with site works getting as close as 2m.
In addition to this potential encroachment onto city and landowner property, several other potential negative impacts were identified by the City of Pitt Meadows:
• Destabilization of ground and potential slope failure
• Changing drainage paths
• Impacts to existing barriers/fences between properties and CP’s right-of-way
• Noise and vibration
In the city’s official response letter, they requested that the Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, impose several conditions on CP before being granted approval to move forward on the project.
The city has asked that CP be forced to conduct geotechnical site investigations and testing, develop a settlement monitoring plan, conduct comprehensive quantitative noise and vibration assessments for both the construction and operation, develop a stormwater management report that assesses development conditions before and after the project, conduct a detailed field survey of existing barriers/fences, and develop a communication protocol for receiving and responding to complaints related to noise and vibration.
“The city does note that by proposing railway works and operations to occur closer to residences, CP’s design as outlined in the Notice of Railway Works is contrary to previous recommendations, guidelines, and commentary provided by the Government of Canada, Canadian Pacific themselves, the Railway Association of Canada (RAC), and the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), all of which have encouraged greater proximity between residences and railway lines,” said Hart.
Current RAC and FCM guidelines recommend at least a 15m distance between branch/spur tracks and residential dwellings, with the distance increasing to 30m for mainline tracks.
With the official submission of the city’s letter of opposition, the Minister of Transport will now have 60 days to make a determination. If the minister deems the objections frivolous or believes the project is in the public interest, then they have the ability to approve the third line anyways.
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