Improvements to the poor-performing intersection at Lougheed Highway at Harris Road could be coming down the road soon, and an underpass along the latter is still being considered.
Pitt Meadows Mayor John Becker isn’t surprised a consultant gave the highway intersection a failing grade. But like the proposed underpass at Harris Rd., there are pros and cons to be considered for improvements to it, Becker said.
Traffic consultants McElhanney looked increased traffic from development in South Bonson and concluded that the key intersection is already underperforming.
“It’s one of the worst intersections in the Lower Mainland,” Becker added.
He said that city hall has been working with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure for more than a year to find ways to improve the intersection and Lougheed corridor.
“It’s in their jurisdiction, and we have no authority and, Lord knows, we have no budget,” Becker said of the ministry.
A design process is underway with the ministry, and will soon be put before the public, but Becker said he is obliged to keep details confidential at this time.
However, he is confident that residents will have a new model to consider before Christmas.
There have been complaints in social media about more and longer waits for trains, and Becker said Pitt Meadows is being impacted by a nation-wide need to move more goods by rail.
Part of the solution is a $25 million underpass along Harris Road, and Becker said the city would need to get CP Rail and the ministry at the table.
CP has been supportive of an underpass at Harris Road, said spokesman Salem Woodrow.
“CP has a strong relationship with the community of Pitt Meadows,” he said. “CP operates 24/7 and will work with the community to resolve any concerns they may have about our operations. While we try to minimize the effects of our operation on people living nearby, sometimes this is unavoidable.”
He also referred to a report by the Conference Board of Canada that outlines the growing demand for rail service, and need for expansion in rail infrastructure.
The tonnage of commodities shipped by rail is predicted to increase from 200 million tonnes in 2011 to 260 million tonnes by 2025.
That translates to hundreds of thousands more rail cars, and most will come through B.C.
CP is budgeting $1.5 billion in capital spending through 2018 to update rail infrastructure.
“We’re not paying a dime for this, as far as I’m concerned,” Becker said of a possible underpass.
There would be loud repercussions for Pitt Meadows, though – the banging noise of train cars being connected.
“It’s tantamount to an expansion of their existing yard,” Becker said, and the city will need buffering to mitigate “the clanking for trains resonating throughout the community. This is a big concern.”
An underpass tunnel would be wider than the existing road. The city would also be forced to move the Pitt Meadows Museum and Hoffmann Garage.
Access to Otter Co-Op other businesses could also be affected.
“The positive effects of not waiting for a train are obvious,” said Becker, but added that the negatives must also be considered.
Becker and four of his colleagues, Couns. Mike Stark, David Murray, Janis Elkerton and Bruce Bell, ran as a team on a platform that included transportation improvements.
Becker said TransLink also needs to improve service in the fast-growing region.
“You can’t build your way out of single vehicle congestion with roads and bridges,” he said.