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Inflation a concern as the cost of Coquitlam public works projects soars

Up to 70 public works projects on Coquitlam engineers’ plate in 2023.

Another summer, another season of construction around Coquitlam.

The public works department at city hall is taking advantage of the good weather by upgrading roads, building multi-use paths and renewing pump stations.

This year, city engineers have a lot of their plate for transportation, water, drainage and sanitary improvements — totalling more than one-third of the municipality’s capital works projects, at $128 million.

Still, they’ve also had to scale back a few plans — especially on Westwood Plateau — due to increased post–pandemic costs for materials and labour, as well as rising inflation.

And Jaime Boan, Coquitlam’s general manager of engineering and public works, said the escalating bills will mean city hall will likely have to shift priorities in some areas next year, along with updating the development cost charges that pay for the city’s infrastructure.

Design and construction manager Mark Zaborniak told the May 8 council-in-committee that the city is saving money by getting an early start on contracts, as council adopts its financial plans in December for the following year.

Between late 2022 and early 2023, he said, staff posted more than 30 tenders to keep up with the population growth and replace aging roads and pipes — a record number of construction contracts for the city.

Getting the tenders signed and sealed early in the year results in more bidding (usually about six or more per project) and creates more competition, Zaborniak said.

As well, city managers try to group projects together to cut costs.

Up to 70 construction projects are happening or in the queue across the city, with paving being the biggest focus at about $7 million a year.

Here are the Top 5 public works projects happening — or being planned — in 2023:

  1. Guildford Greenway and Micromobility Project: A separated bike lane along Guildford Way is now under construction in Phase 1: Johnson Street to the Port Moody border. Phase 2, which takes place next year, will see the lanes extended from Johnson Street to Pinetree Way.
  2. Pipeline Road Upgrade Project: The city will widen Pipeline Road to two lanes in each direction and provide a multi-use pathway on the western side of the street; Metro Vancouver’s new water main, of which preparation work is now underway, will go under the pathway. The city work will fully begin in 2025 once the regional authority has wrapped up that pipe section.
  3. Thomas Avenue frontage works: The city will upgrade the street from Nelson Creek to Casey Street with new pavement, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, street lights and landscaped boulevards — about 900 m in length.
  4. Upper Victoria Drive and Pollard Street: About 740 m of storm pipe and 600 m of sanitary sewer pipe will be installed for the development of the eastern side of the Partington Creek Neighbourhood — the biggest concentration of future residents and commercial on Burke Mountain.
  5. Cedar Drive/Partington Creek: The work includes a new Cedar Drive, complete with underground utilities and a multi-use path, with drainage upgrades and a new pump station.

Meanwhile, Zaborniak said the city is also monitoring third-party projects on the go for this year such as the TransMountain pipeline in southern Coquitlam; Metro Vancouver’s work on the sanitary sewer main at North Road and Como Lake Avenue; and the FortisBC Eagle Mountain-Woodfibre gas pipeline — a 47-km expansion of part of its existing natural gas pipeline that stretches north of the Coquitlam watershed to Squamish.

Coun. Robert Mazzarolo said he’s heard from many Maillardville residents who are frustrated with the city’s frontage works changing their properties.

But Zaborniak said city staff work with the residents in advance to prepare them for the construction impacts and “to do what we can to implement new city standards” on road safety and beautification.

Coun. Craig Hodge said 1.8 km of new sidewalks each year isn’t enough, and many residents are waiting because city engineers want to package multiple projects.

“There are a lot of sidewalks that aren’t getting done because the street is not being done,” he said.