Where to put the Pitt Meadows overpass

Mayoralty candidate John Becker team’s traffic solution draws fire

  • Nov. 14, 2014 7:00 a.m.
Congestion on Harris Road has long been a source of frustration for Pitt Meadows residents.

Congestion on Harris Road has long been a source of frustration for Pitt Meadows residents.

The Allen Way overpass being touted by mayoralty candidate John Becker and his team as the solution for Pitt Meadows’ traffic woes is extravagant, if not pie-in-the-sky, according to opponents.

Becker touts the plan of having a long overpass, crossing both the CPR railway crossing and the Lougheed Highway, at Allen Way. It is a way to get commuters out of the city quickly, without having to stop for trains, and as an alternative entrance to the city would take some of the traffic pressure off the Harris Road Intersection.

Bill Dingwall, seeking a seat on council, said there is no question that traffic congestion on Harris Road and on Lougheed Hwy. through Pitt Meadows are frustrations for residents and a “really big priority issues for Pitt Meadows.”

He noted that the proposed overpass at Allen Way would easily be a $100 million project, and take years to secure funding for, let alone design and build.

The cost alone, he said means the city should seek more viable solutions.

“The citizens sure can’t afford to pay for all that.”

He said council’s role is to lobby the provincial and federal government for funding to remedy the traffic situation.

The North Lougheed Connector, to Abernethy Way, is a partial solution to east-west traffic congestion, Dingwall said, and noted that Pitt Meadows should be a good neighbour to Maple Ridge on that project.

“Maple Ridge has already invested a lot,” he said.

Council candidate Andrew Thompson said highway overpasses at both Allen Way and Harris Rd. would have to be investigated thoroughly. Harris Rd. would impact businesses, but Allen Way would take land out of the Agricultural Land Reserve.

“And what about residents on 188th Aveune?” he asked, noting that their residential neighbourhood would suddenly become a main traffic artery.

Thompson pointed out that the Coast Meridian Overpass in Port Coquitlam, which he says would be a comparable project, cost $132 million to build.

“And that was five years ago. What is it going to cost now?”

He suggested the costs could be more than $150 million.

The total cost of building a connecting road and an overpass at Harris Road was pegged at $34 million, excluding land expropriation. Another report from the city suggested the figure would be closer to $52 million.

Thompson added that the city should concentrate on rapid bus on the highway and improving community shuttle services.

“We’re under serviced for transit.”

Mike Stark, part of Becker’s team, supports the Allen Way overpass.

A new overpass at Lougheed Hwy. and Harris Rd. would be good for east-west traffic on the highway, he concedes, because the traffic light would be eliminated.

“But it does nothing for the Harris Road railway crossing.”

He noted that 22 trains per day travel through the city, blocking commuters before they can even get to the congested highway.

“It seems like every time you go up Harris Rd., you’re stuck.”

Stark pointed out construction of an overpass at Harris Road would be disruptive to businesses in the area, whereas the Allen Way project would have comparatively minimal impact.

He said the project cannot be compared to the Coast Meridian overpass because the Port Coquitlam route spans an entire train yard. The Allen Way proposal could be shorter than the Coast Meridian’s 580-metre span, he estimated.

He acknowledged it is only a viable plan if it has one-third funding from both the federal and provincial governments, and if the railway puts in 15 per cent.

“If you don’t have a plan, it’s never going to happen,” said Stark.

He added, when the plan is put to residents, as he knocks on doors, “they love it.”

Becker noted that a member of his team, Coun. Bruce Bell, resurrected an old idea with the Allen Way overpass, and the team embraced it as a potential solution to gridlock in the city.

It would obviously require the support of the CPR, highways ministry, residents of the area and federal government.

The idea is to have Baynes Road continue north, elevating in time to get vehicles over the tracks and across the highway.

He concedes it would be an expensive project, and could not be done without partnerships from senior government.

“It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight,” he concedes. “But we need to plan for this, regardless.”

He said investigating the Allen Way overpass is a task the new council should undertake in the first year of its mandate.