Why Council Cannot Just Say “No” to All Canadian Pacific (CP) Rail Projects?

Mayor’s Statement – January 26, 2021

“Some have asked, why Council doesn’t just say no to all the CP Rail projects. The answer to the question is anything but simple nor easy. It is important to have six years of complex context.  

The CP Vancouver Intermodal Facility (VIF) in Pitt Meadows has been in existence since the early 1990s—with two main lines running through our City. This is dissimilar to the Milton, Ontario scenario where CN wanted to build a brand new intermodal yard). On Thursday January 21, 2021, the Government of Canada approved the CN intermodal yard citing, in part, trade and transportation, while removing trucks from the roadways. As is evident, there are strong influential forces at play when it comes to the transportation of goods that each and every one of us rely on every day.

 Currently, there are approximately 45 trains per day in Pitt Meadows. It is estimated that given the demand for national and international trade/transportation of goods, plus one million more residents coming to Metro Vancouver over the next 20 years, train traffic will increase to 65 trains/day or more per day and trains will be longer. There are currently 1,000 semi trucks entering the VIF near the Pitt River Bridge/Kennedy Road, daily. The VIF in Pitt Meadows is a sister yard to the one in Port Coquitlam that handles different commodities.    

 Initial discussions began in 2014 under the previous Council and involved the provincial and federal governments wanting to work with the City on infrastructure projects such as the underpass at Harris Road. In 2017, the Pitt Meadows Road and Rail Project (i.e. under/overpass, and rail extension initiative) came to life under the leadership of the Vancouver Fraser Port Authority (VFPA) with the federal government and CP as funding partners ($141 million). This was due to train traffic increasing for both yards in Pitt Meadows and Port Coquitlam and trains getting longer. Harris Road, in particular, became a critical need to avoid the road being blocked for many hours throughout the day/night. Trains continue to have the right-of-way and can only stop and block roads for shorter periods of time. The allotted funding was for these three components and any changes to the scope of the project would require the approval of the funding partners. Thus far, VFPA has spent  millions with engagement, design and engineering work.

 The City has been consistent throughout—Harris Road remains our number one priority. It would improve response times for first responders ultimately leading to enhanced public health and safety of our citizens; reduce congestion/greenhouse gases and improve commuting times, etc.  

The City is also working with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure because traffic volumes on the Lougheed Highway will also be increasing significantly with population growth in Metro Vancouver. From the beginning, our Council continues to strongly advocate for sound/sight mitigation fencing for our residents along the tracks as well as the movement of the museum and Hoffmann Garage to be relocated to a “heritage village” and preserved for many decades. Council believes that both of these need to be a condition of any future endorsement by the City. 

Do we wish the tracks were away from our residential population? Absolutely! Is there a choice to move them? No, there is not. Is the train traffic going to stay the same? Unfortunately no. The reality is it will increase substantially.

Having said that, the announcement regarding the 100 acre industrial CP Logistics Park has further complicated the discussions. Council remains vehemently and unanimously opposed to this project and especially given the “high-risk” commodities such as fuel/ethanol storage and grain silos.    

Council is continuing to discuss the CP Logistics Park with VFPA and CP, which includes ascertaining greater context around some of the comments surfacing through the public engagement sessions with CP.  

This Council continues to hold the interests of our community at the heart of our discussions and ultimately our “informed decisions” which will be made in public. It would be irresponsible and outside our fiduciary obligations to the City and the community for us to make any decisions without having done our due diligence. Could the City ask for the Pitt Meadows Road and Rail Project to focus on only Harris Road? Possibly. And, if that is in the best interests of our community, we will do that.

 Even if the City wants to focus on only Harris Road or eventually decides to opt out of the projects as we currently know them, or the Gateway consortium, funding the Pitt Meadows Road and Rail Project, withdraws their endorsement, this does not mean the end of these projects nor the cancellation of the CP Logistics Park. It does slow down the timeline, somewhat. What that could mean is that VFPA, Transport Canada/federal government and CP would have to go through the Canadian Transportation Agency process. The City would be watching from the sidelines, likely unable to significantly influence decisions (i.e. sound mitigation fencing and moving our heritage buildings) and could even required to pay part of the project costs which has been done in the past. For instance, local governments are “currently” responsible for at-grade maintenance of crossings (i.e. the City of Pitt Meadows paid approximately $400,000 four years ago for Harris Road upgrades).    

 And sadly, the trains, which will be getting longer and increasing in numbers, will continue as will the impact on our community.  Easy decisions these are not.”