Port Metro Vancouver’s (PMV) public consultation phase of the Proposed Low Level Road Project is now complete. The Open Houses and Workshops are over, the video that simulates traveling the new road is in re-runs, the porttalk.ca discussion board has been closed for comments, and the Consultation Summary Report has been completed.
How Successful was this Consultation?
The consultation certainly addressed important issues regarding the height of the road, slope stability, traffic intersections, proximity of the elevated road to residents, increased noise and view impacts from the elevated road, safety, parking, cycling and pedestrian options, the Spirit Trail, etc.
All of these topics are important for a project entitled the “Proposed Low Level Road Project”, the official title of the project.
Port and Rail Expansion
However, the “Proposed Low Level Road Project” is not only about the Low Level Road. The primary purpose of this project is to expand port and rail operations. The unofficial title for this project is the “North Van Port & Rail Expansion Project”.
There was little discussion about the effects on the community of port and rail expansion (and changes to rail operations) during this consultation period. Certainly the potential benefits were highlighted in many project materials, including PMV’s Consultation Discussion Guide.
The most clear and tangible benefit of the project, with respect to rail noise, is the elimination of train whistles due to the closure of 3 at-grade rail crossings.
However, questions remain regarding other types of port noise. The Consultation Discussion Guide states that:
- Train Engines: “Noise walls may help further reduce the noise; final noise wall configuration will be based on noise analysis which is underway.”
- Train Shunting: “Noise modelling indicates that with the Project, rail noise will decrease over the next 5-7 years.”
- Terminal Noise: “Cargill Terminal recently completed a noise assessment, which identified a number of areas where suppression screens would help reduce the noise and are working on an implementation plan to address these opportunities.”
Cargill has made good on this promise and will install mufflers on fans and redirect the noise away from residences and toward the water. See the North Shore News May 4th article Taming a noisy monster – Plant aims to bring quiet to NV neighbourhood. Cargill’s actions have not gone unnoticed by North Van City Councillor Rod Clark who appreciates the company’s efforts, and further states “I would suggest there might be a little arm-twisting on the rest of them.” when referring to other companies operating at the port who have not put forth plans publicly to mitigate noise created by their operations.
The potential benefits that have been stated about reduction of train engine noise and shunting noise have not yet been substantiated with documentation made available to the public. Further, there has been absolutely no mention of another source of rail noise and community complaints: locomotive idling.
When will the Noise and Environmental Impact Reports be Available?
The recently completed public consultation did state that noise and environmental studies were in progress. These reports were not made publicly available during the recent Information Sessions, Open Houses, or Workshops. Yet PMV’s September 2011 Update stated the following:
- “There is an acoustic engineering report and due to its technical nature, it will be available at upcoming consultation activities where we can fully explain the study and its findings.”
- “We are finalizing an environmental report in addition to the acoustic engineering report. These will be available at upcoming consultation activities where we can fully explain the studies and their findings.”
Are these reports now finalized? Does the noise report include the noise model? Will they be released with the “preferred design”? Will PMV provide further consultation opportunities for these topics so that they can fully explain the studies and their findings?
Questions on Porttalk
Residents asked a variety of questions on the porttalk.ca forum including questions about rail noise, environment, and the financial aspects of the project. These types of questions were not answered by the Project Team on the forum.
The Consultation Summary Report states that “Project team members representing Port Metro Vancouver and the City of North Vancouver were clearly identified and active in the forum discussions, posting replies and answers where appropriate.” Are questions regarding rail noise, environmental impacts, and financials considered to be inappropriate?
North Van Urban Forum Questions Business Case
One question that was asked on the porttalk.ca forum was about the financial business case for the City to give the land on which the Low Level Road currently sits to the Port in order for the City to realize the benefits of slope stability, Spirit Trail completion, etc. This question was not answered by the PMV Project Team on porttalk.ca.
Local residents who have created the North Van Urban Forum took this question to City Council on Monday, May 7th and asked that Council prepare a business case that quantifies the costs and that proves the current agreement is beneficial to taxpayers. See their letter to City Council and their recent post North Van Urban Forum brings greater transparency to the Low Level Road Project.
Was the Consultation Successful?
The consultation may be deemed successful with regard to the actual road. However, with so many outstanding questions regarding rail noise, environment impacts, and the business case, can this consultation be considered successful with regard to the port and rail expansion?
- How can residents feel comfortable with the project with these questions unanswered?
- How can City Council make an informed decision with these questions unanswered?
- Will the “preferred design” answer these questions in the next week?
- Is there sufficient time scheduled for residents and City Council to absorb these materials, ask questions, and receive answers from PMV before a decision is made to proceed with the project?
The public consultation phase of the Proposed Low Level Road Project has been completed. When will the public consultation phase for the “North Van Port & Rail Expansion Project” begin?