Pitt Meadows talks planes, trains, automobiles

Harris Road crossing in discussion at special community meeting last week

Planes, Trains and Automobiles was the name of both an odd-couple-style comedy starring Steve Martin and John Candy and an equally entertaining transportation town hall meeting in Pitt Meadows last week.

Mayor John Becker heard complaints about Pitt Meadows airport, which was not surprising to him.

“It is my most active citizen relationship portfolio,” he said.

Taking questions from the floor, he was asked what is council’s long-term view of the airport.

The mayor answered that it is the single greatest economic opportunity in the city, but added that the governance model, in partnership with Maple Ridge, needs realignment.

“The challenge for Pitt Meadows is we have in our community all of the positive and negative implications of having an airport in your community,” Becker explained after the meeting.

He expressed some frustration with how the airport is operating currently.

“There is a significant amount of dysfunction and lack of communication,” Becker added. “There’s not a common goal, there’s not a common understanding.”

He said Maple Ridge has been clear that it wants to remain a member of the airport society, so Pitt Meadows can’t simply bring the airport “in house” as part of its municipal operations.

On Thursday, Becker made a pitch to Maple Ridge council for a new planning process.

“It’s a process of bringing the three parties together – the board and the two member cities – and aligning our economic and community interests,” he said. “So that moving forward the airport board understands its mandate, and we, as the two cities, are clear in our relationship on that mandate.”

Becker said the airport board will remain autonomous.

“In the absence of a coordinated vision by the members, the board can hardly be faulted for doing things that the city doesn’t quite understand,” said Becker. “It’s our fault, not theirs, we need to fix it.”

Becker suggested that the planning session also include “some form of community representation,” potentially two residents appointed by Pitt council, and one appointed by Maple Ridge council.

Those attending the transportation town hall also saw drawings of a potential vehicle overpass or underpass traversing the railway tracks at Harris Road.

The project is not really on the table – the drawing is from 2005, but CP director of government affairs Mike LoVecchio said the issue is picking up steam.

“For the first time in a long time, there’s some real momentum to the discussions, so that’s positive,” said LoVecchio. “There’s a need.”

He noted that across Metro Vancouver there is an effort to separate rail and roads, and that it is “a good thing to do.”

There were people from ICBC, the RCMP, the transportation ministry and the city’s own Active Transportation Advisory Committee to discuss a wide variety of traffic issues.

Becker said the meeting was positive in that connections are being made.

“While we will occasionally rail against the CP, pun intended, and the airport, the fact remains they are enmeshed, imbedded in our community, and to be constantly at loggerheads is stupid,” he said. “So we need to figure out what our common interests are, and build on those.”

• Online transportation survey at www.pittmeadows.bc.ca.