COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) – Work is well underway for gas line upgrades in Vancouver and soon to begin in Burnaby. Starting next year, Coquitlam will have some of its roadways dug up too as Fortis BC continues its work.
While we’re still months away from seeing shovels hit the ground for that phase, the mayor of Coquitlam is raising some red flags.
“Fortis has made a couple of decisions that they want to advance with with this massive project that goes down one of our only two east-west commuter routes through our city,” explains Mayor Richard Stewart, who adds the city is fine with the project proceeding, despite the disruptions it will bring.
It’s Fortis’ plan to leave the old pipe in the ground — as well as its plans to only pave sections of the road — that he finds troubling.
“They’re installing a new pipe, but they intend to fill the old pipe with concrete and leave it there as debris for someone else to have to dig up when we need that corridor,” he tells NEWS 1130. “That corridor is very tight, it has simply not enough room for the types of utilities that go underground these days and it’s going to be really challenging in the future just to put in the utilities that we need.”
He says the city has been working with the utility for a number of months to try and “make the city whole.”
However, citing a difference of opinion, Doug Stout, vice-president of market development and external relations, says Fortis has been forced to put the issues forward to the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC).
In a statement, Stout says it’s standard practice to leave a decommissioned line in place.
“This reduces the impact to communities, as removing it requires us to dig up twice as much road, adding months of inconvenience to the community,” he says. “This also results in significant costs.”
However, Stout adds Fortis will “continue to be responsible for the decommissioned gas line,” adding the utility would be responsible for removing sections of it if it “interferes with new municipal infrastructure.”
Another issue Stewart brings up is road paving. The work along Como Lake Avenue means one lane in each direction will be dug up.
“In the course of that, they will have to make 800 cross-cuts to allow for all of the cross connections that zig-zag across the road,” Stewart says. “So the road will come out looking like a watchboard at the end of this. It will be bump, bump, bump all the way down the road for 800 times. Fortis plans to patch those rather than simply repaving the whole road.”
He says he understands patchwork will be cheaper, but expects the utility to make the road “whole again.”
In its statement, Fortis says, “Once gas line construction is complete, as outlined in our operating agreement, we will be repaving the lanes on Como Lake Avenue that are disturbed during construction.”
Fortis will need permits to close and be allowed to dig through Coquitlam’s road to complete its work. Stewart says the city has made resolving these issues conditions of the permit.
He claims Fortis is going to the BCUC to try to get permission to “ask them to essentially waive the requirement for the permit.”
“If the BCUC considers that and actually rules in their favour, then the city taxpayers will end up subsidizing Fortis BC, which is certainly not how it is intended to happen.”
The BCUC is expected to make its decision soon.
Work is currently underway in Vancouver, with lane closures along East 1st avenue having begun as early as May. The full closure of that route began in early July, and is expected to wrap up at the end of August.
A bakery at E. 1st Avenue and Commercial Drive says it was forced to shut down, saying the roadwork and traffic closure drove its business from 60 customers per day down to five.
Traffic disruptions in Burnaby are expected to begin this month.
According to Fortis BC, the upgrade is being done to an existing gas line that’s more than 60 years old.
Anyone with questions or comments about the project is invited to email Fortis: email@example.com.