COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) – Drivers in Coquitlam may feel like they just can’t catch a break as FortisBC partially shuts down Mariner and Como Lake due to ongoing roadwork surrounding a gasline.
But relief is on the way, and possibly sooner than you may have expected.
The city says work along the busy route should be done Nov. 18, weather permitting.
Big chunks of Como Lake, a major east-west connector, have been closed since March, and right now about five different intersections are affected, including Mariner Way.
“That particular intersection is right next to a fire hall. It’s a fire hall that responds multiple times every day to 911 calls, to lights and siren calls, and it’s really problematic when an intersection like that has something interfering with traffic.”
Stewart says Coquitlam has been working with FortisBC to shorten the timeline of this most recent closure.
“This is our largest east-west corridor through our community, and it is also the most congested utility corridor underground, and so it’s really, really problematic when private companies can come in and do whatever they want under our streets and take up space we need for the services we have to provide to our residents, and at the same time disrupt the traffic on the surface,” he says.
“These are enormous challenges. We know the pipelines have to get built but they’re incredibly problematic.”
Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart says this latest closure is a little concerning.
He admits although the city and FortisBC have butt heads on aspects of this project, the utility has been helpful.
“I take my hat off to them. In July, I had the vice-president in my office with a number of complaints about the way the work was progressing and the pace the work was progressing at. At that point they were doing 45 metres a day and it was projected to last well into the New Year. FortisBC, to their credit, actually ramped up, and for the last couple of months has been doing an incredible amount of work to catch back up again,” he says.
“It has been a long, long tunnel and that light is finally here and we know now with the commitments made are that by November 18th those closures that remain will have been completed.”
Right now, there are five separate areas on Como Lake under construction – at Poirier Street, at Mariner, east of Mariner, at North Road and at Robinson Street.
“It has been a really challenging summer for so many of our motorists and businesses along that corridor as well, the school zones, all of the detour routes. It has been a real challenge but fingers crossed we’ll see the end of it on November 18th,” says Stewart.
The roadwork is temporary. Stewart says water pipe construction is needed but it’s not expected to happen for a couple of years.
Ongoing legal battle
Despite the November 18th deadline, the fight the City of Coquitlam picked with FortisBC will continue when it comes to the gas line upgrades.
Coquitlam refused to give the utility permits, but was overruled by the BC Utilities Commission, and permits were granted.
“FortisBC intends to leave the old pipe – once it’s decommissioned – leave the junky old pipe in the ground, and we have demanded that,” he says. “We need that corridor, and to just leave an oil-covered pipe in the ground for future generations to deal with is unfair.”
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The BCUC initially left FortisBC with a bill for half the costs, leaving Coquitlam to cover the other half.
But Stewart says that’s ‘ridiculous.’
“It’s not our pipe. The pipe belongs to FortisBC shareholders, and it’s our road. The City of Coquitlam demands that either they remove the pipe, or they start paying us rent for storing their junk under our road,” he says.
He expects that dispute will end up with the BCUC and possible in court.
“‘You clearly have to re-write the rules associated with the BC Utilities Commission that allow a private utility to leave behind its garbage, and essentially tell taxpayers that they have to clean up for a utility when it’s done with its pipe. That’s unfathomable.”
The city has appealed the decision that would see it have to pay any costs with removing any gas line or pipeline.
Stewart says the next option would be to possibly create a bylaw to rent space to FortisBC so the company can store its pipeline under city property.