Pitt Meadows council heard on Tuesday plans for $140 million in railway infrastructure in the city, including two overpasses and an underpass, the latter on Harris Road.
It’s part of a national strategy to speed up the shipment of goods to the Port of Vancouver, but Pitt Meadows council will be “aggressive advocates” for the interests of its residents, said Mayor John Becker.
A delegation from the Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum visited council.
Mike Henderson of the Greater Vancouver Gateway Council spoke for the group, which included representatives from the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority. Government agencies involved include Translink, the B.C. Ministry of Transportation, as well as Transport Canada.
Henderson said the transportation forum was formed to identify and seek funding for transportation infrastructure of national significance.
“These are projects that are required to allow Canada to continue to benefit from exporting products through the Port of Vancouver,” he explained.
He said port volumes will improve by “something approaching” 50 per cent by 2030.
“This is Canada’s largest port, one of the largest ports in North America. About 25 per cent of every export dollar Canada earns goes through this port.”
He said 38 key projects have been identified to create a smoother flow of exports in B.C., and three are in Pitt Meadows.
An overpass at Kennedy Road and an underpass at Harris Road are among those submitted for funding by federal government.
Henderson expects a response in March.
Funding for an overpass at Allen Way will be submitted in the future, he added.
There is not one large multi-billion dollar project that could benefit rail traffic, he explained, but a proliferation of vehicle and train traffic bottlenecks that need to be eliminated.
The National Trade Corridors Fund has $2 billion to dispense over 11 years to eliminate bottlenecks.
Henderson said there are frequent traffic delays at Harris Road, as well as operational inefficiencies imposed on rail operations because CP cannot block a crossing for more than five minutes.
Kennedy Road has among the highest number of train crossings of any CP line in B.C., he said.
The GTCF needs city input on design, in terms of what it is willing to accept, support and collaborate on.
“Suffice it to say, it would be very difficult in the extreme to proceed with some of these projects without some understanding and support from the community,” said Henderson.
The underpass at Harris Road would be four lanes with sidewalks, would cost an estimated $63 million, and take two or three years to complete.
Kennedy Road would be a two-lane overpass with access for pedestrians and cyclists. It would cost $50 million, and also take two to three years to build.
Councillors had reservations.
Becker said he has heard from two groups of citizens – those who strongly support a Harris Road underpass to increase traffic flow, and those who believe it would be an eyesore that could spoil the character of downtown.
There are also concerns that with CP building trains throughout the city, the noise would be unbearable.
“The negative effects are not going to be felt in Calgary, or the potash mine in Saskatoon, or the manufacturing facility in Ontario. They are going to be felt by our folks right here,” said Becker. “They don’t have a voice unless it is us.”
He added that the city is prepared to be a “collaborative junior partner” in the process.
Coun. Bill Dingwall said the city should not be asked to contribute financially to more than $140 million in infrastructure.
“For a community of 19,000, that puts a lot of challenges on us,” he said.
“We don’t even have a full-time fire department.”
Coun. Bruce Bell opposed an underpass at Harris Road, and said an Allen Way overpass should be the first priority, and become a main traffic artery.
“I for one think that an underpass on Harris Road ruins the city,” Bell added.
“The infrastructure takes up so much room, and it’s got to be concrete,” he said after the meeting.
The Harris Road project would be both close to heritage buildings – the museum would have to be moved back, and the newer Keystone building with street-level commercial tenants and residential above, would have the new concrete structure “right in their face.”
Coun. Janis Elkerton also felt the Harris Road underpass would “wreck the city.”
“I’m still surprised you think Harris Road is viable, with all the buildings that are so close to that railway,” she said.
Coun. Mike Stark said he was disappointed the Allen Way project has been put off.
“You’ve got to get it in this round,” he told Henderson.
He noted the project calls for five kilometres of new track on CP Rail siding, which would run almost the full length off Pitt Meadows. That means noise mitigation for that 5 km needs to be looked at.
The city is targeting a mid-March town hall meeting and joint information session, with all partners invited.