An artist’s conception of the underpass at Harris Road. (Contributed)

An artist’s conception of the underpass at Harris Road. (Contributed)

Council signs MOU for Pitt Meadows rail projects

Underpass at Harris, overpass at Kennedy closer to construction

Pitt Meadows council has approved the city’s role in a partnership to build a railway overpass at Kennedy Road, and a long-discussed underpass at Harris Road.

At a discussion by council at its July 30th meeting, staff confirmed the costs of relocating the two heritage buildings on Harris Road, sound walls and other mitigation measures would be born by the other parties in the agreement, and not by the city.

Council endorsed the non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority and Canadian Pacific (CP) for the $140 million Pitt Meadows Road and Rail Improvements Project. The federal government announced funding of $50 million for the projects. The MOU outlines the project, key principles, high-level scope, roles and responsibilities of each party and will be used as a guiding non-binding document to shape future discussions and potential binding agreements.

“Staff and council are working closely with the port authority and CP to address noise from rail operations that remains a priority for council as well the appropriate relocation of our heritage buildings and assurances for business continuity during construction of the Harris Road and Kennedy Road transportation improvements,” said Mayor Bill Dingwall.

Council agrees to assume ownership of the overpass at Kennedy Road, which will increase the city’s insurance costs by $70,000 per year. It also agrees to maintain the structures at an approximate cost of $90,000 per year over a 50-year lifespan. The cost will not translate directly into an immediate property tax increase. Instead, taxes will incrementally increase over an extended period of time that will eventually reach the $90,000 average cost as the infrastructure ages.

The Hoffman and Son Machine Shop and Old General Store need to be moved back from Harris, and the city has been in discussions with the Pitt Meadows Heritage and Museum Society to move the buildings to the same side of Harris Road, on a lot owned by the society that currently is the site of the machine shop.

Dingwall referred to the re-developed site as a potential “legacy piece.”

“It’s really a foundation document that speaks to the relationship of all the parties at the table, and that Pitt Meadows will have a voice at the table,” said Coun. Nicole MacDonald, while expressing frustration in not having more detail about the projects.

Coun. Bob Meachen said council will do all it can to mitigate impacts on the community, including noise.

“That last thing I want to see is anyone being considered collateral damage. It’s not fair,” said Meachen.

Dingwall noted 80 per cent of citizens are in support of the infrastructure, 10 per cent are “lukewarm at best,” and 10 per cent don’t want it.

However, he said it will improve public safety by trains not blocking first responders, and offer more reliable commute times for citizens, among its other advantages.

“Rail grade separations will mean that all emergency services will be able to get to incidents faster and public safety will be improved,” said Dingwall. “Whether you are on a bicycle, on foot or in a car, moving around Pitt Meadows will be much easier. There will be more reliable commuting times, less congestion and reduced GHG emissions.”

The next phase of public engagement is planned for later this fall. If approved by all parties involved, construction is anticipated to begin in 2022 with completion expected in 2024 dependent on design and community engagement.

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