Port Metro Vancouver’s Low Level Road Project Earns Envision Platinum Award

Photo credit Stantec

Port Metro Vancouver’s Low Level Road project recently received the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure (ISI) Envision sustainable infrastructure rating system’s Platinum Award. The project is the first transportation project to receive an ISI Envision-verified sustainable infrastructure rating system award.

The Low Level Road Project involved the realignment and elevation of approximately 2.6 kilometers of the Low Level Road in North Vancouver, B.C., providing space for two new rail tracks. The project also eliminated three existing road and rail crossings and provided direct access to major port terminals. In addition, the project addressed safety, recreation and noise challenges associated with port operations along the Low Level Road, including the reconfiguration of three intersections and improved lanes for cyclists. The project also involved the continuation of the Spirit Trail pedestrian walkway, including structures over two creeks and an overpass.

The project was designed to enhance rail and port operations as international trade continues to grow, and to address long-standing community safety and traffic congestion challenges in the area. Stantec Consulting, Ltd. was the principal consultant on the project, which was funded by Port Metro Vancouver, port industry, Canadian National Railway, Translink, Canadian Pacific Railway, and the City of North Vancouver.

“Port Metro Vancouver’s realigned Low Level Road project improves community mobility, enhances the availability of active transportation options, improves community safety and mitigates threats from unstable slopes and seismic risks,” said ISI President and CEO, William Bertera. “The road project’s design team also contributed to sustainable infrastructure through economic development and stability in the local community.”

“The Low Level Road project has increased trade opportunities for Canada while providing safety, traffic flow and recreational benefits to the local community,” said Port Metro Vancouver President and Chief Executive Officer, Robin Silvester. “We are proud of the significant collaboration between funding partners, project staff and the community, and delighted to see recognition of the project’s contributions to sustainability.”

“Stantec is very proud of our work on the Low Level Road, and we are thrilled it is the first Envision-verified transportation project in North America,” said Managing Principal, Transportation, B.C., Neal Cormack. “On this multifaceted project our team realigned the roadways to accommodate rail expansion and increase safety, while securing the road’s slopes and bridge structures to enhance resiliency, protecting against sea level rise and seismic threats.”

ISI’s Envision rating system measures sustainable infrastructure projects through the measurement of five categories: Quality of Life (QL), Leadership (LD), Natural World (NW), Resource Allocation (RA), and Climate and Risk (CR). These contribute to overall credits for the positive social, economic, and environmental impacts in a community in the planning, design, and construction of infrastructure projects. The Envision categories in which the project scored highest include:

Quality of Life (QL): The Quality of Life highlights include the development of the project through a partnership between a broad group of stakeholders and community leaders including the Government of Canada, Port of Metro Vancouver, Canadian National Railway, Translink, Canadian Pacific Railway, port terminals, the City of North Vancouver, and other partners. A holistic stakeholder engagement program was also established during the design process to ensure that the final design appropriately reflected community needs and priorities.

The project stimulated sustainable growth and development, and economic impacts generated by the Port terminals are expected to rise from providing 25,996 direct and indirect jobs and $1.68 billion in GDP in 2007, to 30,823 direct and indirect jobs and $2 billion in GDP by 2020.

A key feature of the project was the concurrent development of additional pedestrian and cycling facilities as a part of a continuation of the regional Spirit Trail. The project’s design included a new pedestrian overpass, and improvements to existing trails within Moodyville Park. The development of these trail components added a much needed extension to the Spirit Trail network.

Other Quality of Life project characteristics include the reduction of noise from train whistles, the improvement of bike lanes, and the addition of public art work.

Climate and Risk (CR): In the Climate and Risk category, the project received high scores through the reduction of air pollutant emissions, assessment of climate threat, avoidance of traps and vulnerabilities and for adequate preparation for long-term adaptability. By aligning the development of the design for the project with the principles of the city’s adaptation plan, the design effectively prepares for expected climate change risks and impacts that were identified in the Climate Change Adaptation Plan completed by the City of North Vancouver in 2013. The previous road and rail alignment presented a significant configuration trap for users including the local community, which was represented by a number of business operators, governments, and local stakeholders. The project addresses these vulnerabilities through realignment of the roadway up the slope to a higher elevation, improvements to the rail facilities, completion of Mechanically Stabilized Earth (MSE) retaining walls in a cost-efficient method, and the expansion of the Spirit Trail including the installation of two pedestrian bridges.

Leadership (LD): In the Leadership Category, the Low Level Road project rated highest in effective leadership and commitment, provision for stakeholder involvement and improvement of infrastructure integration. The Port used an engagement framework based on the International Association of Public Participation core values and guidelines that were the rationale for selection of stakeholders, and the project team also engaged with local residents, local businesses, First Nations communities, Port tenants and partners, CN Rail and CP Rail, City of North Vancouver, and Trans\Link.

Natural World (NW): The project rated highly in the Natural World category in terms of prime habitat and species biodiversity. Pacific Yew trees and bald eagle habitat that existed on the site are of high ecological value that had the potential of being impacted. The Port hired eagle experts with the Hancock Wildlife Foundation to provide recommendations on how to minimize project impacts on their health and wellbeing. During construction of the Spirit Trail, an environmental monitor and fencing were in place to ensure that the eagle nesting site was not disturbed. Scheduling of construction activities was significantly changed to accommodate bird nesting season. The project also included the installation of two artificial nesting sites for eagles. In addition, an assessment identified 12 Yew trees, which have cultural value to the First Nations Communities and are native to British Columbia, and will not be impacted by the development of the Low Level Road Project.

Photo credit Stantec