The new rail crossing infrastructure in Pitt Meadows will tack an increase on to residents’ property tax bills from city hall, even though the federal government and CP Rail are covering the construction costs for two new overpasses.
The Kennedy Road overpass and Harris Road underpass projects will place new financial responsibilities on to the city, resulting in annual costs of about $160,000, or a 0.75 per cent tax increase, explained Mayor Bill Dingwall.
The memorandum of understanding to construct the two new railway projects is in the works, and it will outline the responsibilities of each party involved in the projects – Vancouver Fraser Port Authority, CP Rail, the federal government and the city. Once the MOU is signed by all parties, the projects will be about a year in design, followed by a construction period of approximately 2.5 years, he added.
The MOU is expected to be at council in the coming weeks.
Dingwall explained the city will be responsible for maintenance of the new structures. This will cost $90,000 per year, over life of the infrastructure.
The city will also assume ownership of the Kennedy Road overpass, and the insurance on it will be $70,000 per year, to cover failure of the overpass in a “catastrophic event.” The life span of the overpass will be 50-75 years.
The two projects will cost $141 million to build, and Dingwall noted the city will not bear any responsibility for construction costs.
According to a city hall staff report, the new infrastructure will create more reliable commuting times as drivers are no longer held up by trains, better emergency response, and have other benefits such as less vehicle idling and less air pollution.
The parties involved in these projects are at the point of finalizing the memorandum of understanding for the projects.
Members of the public spoke about noise and air pollution from idling trains at a recent council meeting, and how this will increase with CP Rail’s plan to add a third track through the city. Some said they have considered moving from the city.
They asked for walls and idling limits to mitigate these problems.
Coun. Tracy Miyashita said she also lives along the tracks, and sympathizes with residents.
“It’s very frustrating . I work from home, so every time I make a phone call I have to shut the window, and my house is filthy,” she said.
“I feel like there are two groups of people in our town – those who are excited about this because they are frustrated waiting for trains constantly, and then the rest of us who live on the tracks, and are concerned about quality of life.”
She noted that when she came to Pitt Meadows 18 years ago there were about 24 trains per day. Now there are 40, and that is projected to increase to 65 through the city, so the new infrastructure is necessary.
“It’s something we have to do, to move forward for our town. I don’t like it either,” she said.
“I can reassure you we are going to do our darnedest to focus on quality of life and put those measures in place for sound and air quality – otherwise I am moving with you guys.”
Dingwall said mitigation measures will be part of the coming agreements.
“They are well aware of our concerns, and we will be lobbying through the design process and through the construction process to get the very best that we can for our residents,” said Dingwall.
He said the infrastructure is good news to most Pitt Meadows residents, noting the city’s public engagement shows 80 per cent of the public is supportive of the projects.