Work is continuing on an underpass at the CP Rail tracks on Harris Road in Pitt Meadows, but the overpass project on Kennedy Road has been paused.
Staff from the Port of Vancouver appeared at a Zoom meeting of city council on March 9 to announce the change. Devan Fitch, director of infrastructure delivery for the port authority, gave an overall update on the Pitt Meadows Road and Rail Improvement projects.
“In conversations with city staff, we’ve heard loud and clear the priority for the community is the Harris underpass,” said Fitch. “And in recognition of this feedback we will be pausing further work on planning and design for the Kennedy overpass, so that we can focus the full team’s efforts on progressing our technical understanding of the Harris underpass.”
The projects have been in the works for years. The federal Transportation Minister, Marc Garneau, was at the CP intermodal yard in May of 2018 to announce $56 million in funding. That was the national share of a $141 million rail infrastructure upgrade in the city, which included the underpass, overpass and a third rail.
CP Rail recently announced its plans for a new logistics park in Pitt Meadows, with the storage of fuel, agriculture products and vehicles. It would be located directly south of the existing CP intermodal yard.
Members of the community and council have voiced opposition to the logistics facility, based on environmental concerns, fire hazard, loss of farmland, noise, air pollution, increased truck traffic and more.
Residents have called on council to stop the rail crossing projects to fight the logistics park, but council has insisted the Harris Road underpass is needed.
“I want to extend a thank you for your comments, and the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority position on pausing Kennedy Road, and focusing on Harris Road,” said Mayor Bill Dingwall.
“Harris Road is our number one road in Pitt Meadows. We can’t have it blocked, period. We just can’t have it blocked. Whether you are talking about public health and safety, first response, or whether you are talking about the economic survivability of our businesses along Harris Road.”
Dingwall said he has heard estimates of daily truck traffic to the logistics yard as high as 600 trucks per day, but is not sure whether the Kennedy overpass is critical for the operation.
“If there’s train traffic, they will have to wait like everybody else,” he said.
Coun. Bob Meachen said the new direction will be welcomed news in the city.
“Those two projects need to be separate,” he said.
He said the underpass will have benefits, even if some people are negatively impacted, and noted he was caught three times at Harris Road last week due to shunting. There are predictions the delays at Harris Road could more than double by 2030.
“If this is the reality of life 10 years down the road, it’s going to be unbearable if there is not something done about those crossings,” said Meachen.
The city noted work on the Harris Road underpass continues. This spring, the project team will provide an update on the CP rail component of the project, and share the results of a related noise study and next steps.
During the next round of public engagement in the fall, the project team will share the proposed design for the Harris Road underpass and information about the relocation of the heritage buildings.
“As we work to advance the Harris Road underpass, we will continue to work in close collaboration with the port authority and CP to share information about those components of the project most important to the community,” said city CAO Mark Roberts.
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