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Part of Como Lake Ave. shut down due to sinkhole; Coquitlam mayor blames FortisBC gas line work

Last Updated May 3, 2019 at 1:08 pm PDT

A sinkhole has formed along Como Lake Avenue in Coquitlam, where gas line work is being done by FortisBC crews. (Simon Druker, NEWS 1130 Photo)
Summary

Como Lake Avenue is closed to westbound traffic between Blue Mountain and Robinson streets because of a sinkhole

Coquitlam mayor says FortisBC is to blame for the sinkhole, which appeared where gas line upgrades are being done

COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) – A stretch of Como Lake Avenue is now completely closed to westbound traffic because of a sinkhole, and Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart says you can thank FortisBC.

The collapse happened between Blue Mountain Street and Robinson Street, right where crews are replacing a main gas line.

Stewart is already on the record blasting the utility for the work and its impact on commuters using the major east-west thoroughfare. This latest incident has him saying, “I told you so.”

“These ones are frustrating, I’m sure it’s frustrating for the crew as well,” he tells NEWS 1130. “We’ve got a very deep excavation, approximately 15 feet deep, and it has collapsed into the shoring. The shoring is the protective equipment that’s there to protect the workers that are deep inside the hole.”

Traffic is now completely closed off to westbound traffic between Blue Mountain and Robinson streets. This, Stewart says, this will result in a bunch of “unexpected rat running.”

“Cars are racing through residential streets and park zones and putting residents at risk. It’s a real frustration that this kind of thing happens, because we’re all trying to prevent that from happening.”

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened in the area, either.

The mayor points to another, “similar roadway collapse” on a stretch of road in that city during an earlier phase of Fortis’ gas line upgrades in 2017.

“[The contractor] installed [a pipeline] for Fortis in Coquitlam two years ago — it wasn’t underneath the road but it did have to go underneath several roads on its route — one of those roads, when they were drilling, the road collapsed. Luckily, no one was hurt, but it could well have engulfed a car that would fall into the hole at some pretty high speeds.”

The city was frustrated then, and Stewart says it is now too.

FortisBC says the closure is expected to stretch into the weekend.

 

Grace Pickell with the utility says crews first noticed some ground movement around the worksite on Tuesday afternoon.

“As a precaution the site was secured and the westbound lane of Como Lake Avenue was closed to traffic,” she says. “I think what’s important to remember here is that we do have very rigorous safety standards and we have people constantly monitoring the site to ensure that safety is being upheld.”

The city and residents were notified immediately, she adds.

Pickell says this isn’t a “sinkhole,” but rather a situation where the ground has shifted.

The city has refused to give the utility a permit for the work because of ongoing concerns. The city takes issue with Fortis’ plan to leave the decommissioned pipeline in the ground once upgrades are complete. Stewart has also raised paving as another issue, with the city saying it requires the utility to repave Como Lake “from curb to curb due to the impact construction will have on the roadway.”

Fortis told NEWS 1130 last summer it would “be repaving the lanes on Como Lake Avenue that are disturbed during construction.”

The BC Utility Commission has over-ruled Coquitlam’s opposition.

Detours are in place. Listen live for traffic updates every 10 minutes on the ones. You can also follow us on Twitter @NEWS1130Traffic or subscribe to breaking news alerts sent directly to your inbox.

-With files from Mike Lloyd and Ash Kelly

Editor’s Note: NEWS 1130 has corrected this article to show no westbound traffic is able to get through until repairs are made. We have also made changes to clarify why the city refused to give FortisBC a permit for its work.