Council Endorses Partnering Agreement for the Harris Road Underpass Project

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PITT MEADOWS, BC – Last night, Pitt Meadows City Council endorsed the signing of the Project Partnering Agreement (PPA) with the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (port authority) and Canadian Pacific (CP) to advance work on the Harris Road Underpass Project, a component of the Pitt Meadows Road and Rail Improvements Project. This will allow the project partners to progress the design of the Harris Road underpass with future consultation planned with the community.

“This is an important moment in history for our community,” says Mayor Bill Dingwall. “The Harris Road underpass will improve public safety and response times for police, fire and ambulance services which will translate into saving of lives. Council, staff and the community have achieved more noise and vibration mitigation than initially offered with the potential to increase mitigation further if additional project funding is secured. As well, the community will gain an underpass that will relieve traffic congestion, make commuting easier and more reliable—with no design or structural construction costs to the City.”

The endorsement of the PPA means that the City will have a seat at the table and have the ability to play a meaningful role in shaping the future of the Harris Road. CP has the ability to build the rail extension within their right of way and across Harris Road. With more trains coming and without an agreement, the City may be assigned significant costs and there would be no guarantees regarding mitigation.

The PPA is the next step to advancing technical design work for the Harris Road Underpass Project since the non-binding Memorandum of Understanding was signed in 2019. The agreement outlines:

  • Roles, commitments, and priorities of all partners
  • Scope, schedule, funding and budget for the Harris Road underpass
  • Active transportation and urban design considerations
  • Noise and vibration mitigation contributions from the project
  • Ownership and maintenance obligations
  • Considerations for construction planning

“The Harris Road crossing has been a concern among residents and discussed by City councils and staff since the 1970s. As well, the PPA represents the culmination of years of extensive negotiations, numerous revisions, weekly meetings and countless hours of staff time,” says Chief Administrative Officer Mark Roberts. “Council and staff are proud of what has been achieved in these negotiations including plans for the relocation of the Museum and heritage buildings to create a heritage site. Additionally, active transportation and accessibility improvements will be made to existing infrastructure with the establishment of multi-use paths that are separated from vehicle and train traffic.”

Noise Mitigation
Since Project funding was announced in 2018, the City has actively advocated and negotiated for appropriate and feasible noise and vibration mitigation.

Subject to additional project funding, the mitigation will be increased from $1.5 million to $3 million, at no cost to the City. There is an opportunity to obtain an additional $1 million with supplementary project funding if the City matches $1 million, for a combined total of $5 million that may be allocated to noise and vibration mitigation.

The results of the City’s independent Peer Review of the port authority’s noise and vibration study, as well as the additional monitoring along the rail corridor, has determined that the study was conducted appropriately. The City’s consultant has recommended that the height of certain walls may need to be taller than proposed to provide effective mitigation for an increase in high annoyance day/night (Ldn) sound caused by the project. City staff will continue to work with all partners to determine the best combination of wall location, length and height and additional investment in noise mitigation. 

Air Quality     
In spring 2021, the City commissioned an air quality human health risk assessment of railway diesel emissions. The report presented to Council on November 21, 2021 showed that greenhouse gas emissions from idling vehicles stopping for trains at the Harris Road crossing generated up to 324 tonnes of CO2 per year in 2019, which is equivalent to over 140,000 litres of fuel per year. This is expected to continue to increase as train traffic grows. An underpass would allow unrestricted traffic flow and significantly reduce idling and greenhouse gas emissions compared to the current conditions of an at-grade crossing.

Next Steps
With a PPA endorsed by all project partners, the port authority, as the project lead can proceed with engaging a design-build contractor. The City will work with project partners to take appropriate next steps to progress the design and planning work associated with the project. 

The project partners will be working towards advancing the Construction Agreement that will include the final scope of work, schedule, roles, responsibilities, a construction management plan to mitigate impacts and a traffic management plan to provide Harris Road utilization during construction.

In May 2018, the federal government announced $141 million in funding for railway infrastructure projects in Pitt Meadows following a proposal submitted in 2018 by the Gateway Transportation Collaboration Forum.

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For more information please contact:
Carolyn Baldridge,
Manager of Communications & Community Engagement
City of Pitt Meadows