Transportation Minister Marc Garneau. (Wikicommons)

UPDATE: Underpass, overpass for Pitt Meadows

Part of larger federal funding annoucement

Pitt Meadows will get an underpass on Harris Road and an overpass at Kennedy Road as part of a larger federal funding announcement made Thursday.

Federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau, at the CP Rail intermodal yard in Pitt Meadows, announced $55.8 million in new infrastructure.

The projects include a four-lane underpass on Harris Road and two-lane overpass at Kennedy Road, as well as an additional five kilometres of track at the CP facility in Pitt Meadows.

The key issue is movement of goods across the country to the Port of Vancouver to drive economic activity, but Garneau said the projects will provide better traffic flow for Pitt Meadows residents.

“These improvements will also improve the quality of life for those living and working in Pitt Meadows and the Tri-City area, as commuting around the area will be more fluid and efficient,” he said as semi trucks getting containers came and went from the facility behind him.

“You’ll spend less time in traffic waiting for trains to go by, and your commute will be safer after the train and road traffic are separated.”

The corridor at Westwood Street and Kingsway Avenue between Port Coquitlam and Coquitlam will be upgraded, to separate road and rail traffic.

Design work to raise Pitt River Road and Colony Farm Road to create overpasses of the existing rail corridor will allow a new five-kilometre section of track.

And the rail overpass at Mountain Highway, lowering the roadway to provide additional clearance, will be improved.

“These projects are expected to have significant economic and employment benefits by creating an estimated 550 jobs during construction,” Garneau said.

They were funded under the National Trade Corridors Fund, which will dispense $2 billion over 11 years.

Robin Silvester, president of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, said the Port of Vancouver is Canada’s largest port, and trade is growing, fueled by trading partners in Asia.

He said the umbrella infrastructure program, the Greater Vancouver Gateway 2030 program, identified the projects funded on Thursday. There are nearly 40 infrastructure projects in total in the region that will need to be completed to reduce rail and road bottlenecks in the flow of goods.

The CEO of Canadian Pacific Keith Creel said rail is the most efficient and safest way to move freight.

“Pitt Meadows is the perfect location to showcase the National Trade Corridors Fund and the opportunity it represents, because this facility is a critical node in this corridor as we create and connect the nation in the international supply chains,” said Creel.

“We are bracketed by two level crossings at both ends of this facility. I’ve always said the supply chain is only as efficient as both book ends. This is a perfect example of that.”

He said the facility is impeded in providing reliable service, as well as from a capacity standpoint, by the crossings at Harris and Kennedy roads, which also challenge the liveability of the community.

Pitt Meadows Coun. Janis Elkerton, serving as deputy mayor, noted there is a community consultation coming on June 25 about transportation. She said there are concerns about more noise from train building and sightlines in downtown Pitt Meadows to be considered.

She said the province also has to fix the intersection of Harris Road and Lougheed Highway, another bottleneck.

“It’s a complete package,” she said. “But $58 million is a great start.”

Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge MP Dan Ruimy said the rail underpass will address a safety issue for first responders who get stuck at train crossings now.

He also said this might be the largest federal investment in Pitt Meadows ever, and community consultation is going to continue.

“This is just a funding announcement, of what the intent is. Obviously, there is still work to be done,” said Ruimy.

Contributions from the railway company and provincial government for the projects were not announced.

In January, a delegation from the Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum visited Pitt Meadows council. Mike Henderson of the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council spoke for the group, which included representatives from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. He said funding for an overpass at Allen Way will be submitted in the future.

He offered estimates that the underpass at Harris Road will be four lanes with sidewalks, and cost an estimated $63 million, and take two or three years to complete.

Kennedy Road would be a two-lane overpass with access for pedestrians and cyclists. It will cost $50 million, and also take two to three years to build.

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