The updated Harris road underpass will mean shifting the Harris road slightly to the west at the railway crossing. (Port of Vancouver/Special to The News)

The updated Harris road underpass will mean shifting the Harris road slightly to the west at the railway crossing. (Port of Vancouver/Special to The News)

Shifting Harris road, part of Port Authority’s update on Rail and Road Improvements Project

Pitt Meadows residents demand clarity around mitigation measures and impacts of the project

Work on the proposed road and rail improvements for Pitt Meadows is continuing, with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority providing Pitt Meadows council and public an update during a council committee meeting earlier this month.

But the plans and update are being met with some concerns from at least one area resident who fears tracks will be brought too close to homes in Pitt Meadows, hers included.

During the recent presentation to council, port representative Peter Cohen offered a rundown of all the activities they have undertaken, as well as expected changes and outcomes in the coming days.

One of the big changes that would be coming through the Harris Road underpass project would be shifting of Harris Road slightly west at the current railway crossing, making it wider, and allowing them to keep three lanes open during the project construction. He said that this was the direct result of concerns heard in previous phases of engagement where people heavily focused on prioritizing having the road accessible during construction.

Cohen also said that Harris Road had been identified by Transport Canada as one of the busiest rail crossings in the Lower Mainland, making it such a crucial project.

“Overall, the construction of an underpass at Harris Road, will make the Pitt Meadows community safer, and commute faster,” said Cohen.

This phase two public engagement will now be followed by a winter/spring 2022 update on the underpass’ design, additional noise and vibration study results, mitigation considerations, heritage building updates, along with any additional project updates.

The noise and vibration study commissioned by the port authority revealed that the noise and vibration levels currently experienced exceeded the Health Canada guidelines. The city is also undertaking an independent study and the results of this are expected to be presented to the city by mid-November.

The three-pronged project, which involves an underpass for Harris Road, an overpass for Kennedy Road, and a new siding track on the north side of the existing tracks between Harris Road and Kennedy Road along with an extension of the existing lead track to the Vancouver intermodal facility east across Harris Road, has recently been focusing just on the Harris Road underpass aspect.

However, according to Cohen, the funding agreement for the project is such that all three projects will need to move ahead so the federal funding isn’t jeopardized, however, all work remains paused for the Kennedy Road overpass.

The port authority is now looking to the city to sign a binding agreement for the Harris Road underpass by the end of 2021.

ALSO READ: Katzie ask feds for impact assessment of CP Rail projects in Pitt Meadows

From the binding agreement being problematic due to lack of sufficient information with the staff to make that sort of a commitment so soon, to the question of why a third track would be allowed so close to residences without a proper mitigation plan in place, many concerns were raised by citizens and council members during the meeting.

Heather Anderson, a long-time Pitt Meadows resident, told The News after the meeting that all she wanted was for more people to be aware of what this project is really about.

“It isn’t just about the underpass. People are happy that we are getting the underpass and yes, there are benefits to it. But, at the same time, we need to see at what cost we are getting this underpass,” she said, adding that since the funding would be dependent on all three projects moving forward, the rail extension could happen at the cost of the health and safety of the residents, especially those living close to the tracks.

“In the end if we all decide that we are going to have to go ahead with the rail extension, there needs to be effective mitigation and not just feasible mitigation; feasible means they are just looking at what is affordable. They need to also make sure it is effective. Health and safety of the residents, have to be the top considerations for this project,” she said.

READ MORE: Pitt Meadows resident concerned about CP’s plans for third track

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