FortisBC’s plans to replace a gas pipeline next year could snarl traffic along Como Lake Avenue — one of Coquitlam’s busiest commuter routes — for at least eight months.
And while city councillors are concerned about a potential traffic nightmare, one also said the natural gas company’s offer of compensation is much too low.
The company is planning on replacing its existing line with a new 750 mm pipeline, which the city of Coquitlam said will involve significant excavation and backfilling conducted in phases on Como between Mariner Way and the Burnaby border.
Joszef Dioszeghy, Coquit-lam’s general manager of engineering and public works, said city staff are still looking at the proposal to determine the best way of mitigating traffic issues. “The impact is going to be truly enormous on this city,” he said during a council-in-committee meeting Monday.
He later told The Tri-City News in an email that staff “will look at what length of lane closures will be unavoidable to find the optimum balance between construction needs and traffic interruptions.”
FortisBC wants to reduce traffic flows to as low as one alternating lane, a proposal Dioszeghy said “is not going to happen.”
But he acknowledged that even single-lane traffic in either direction could be disruptive on such a major arterial route.
Como Lake Avenue is not the only pipeline replacement FortisBC is planning in Coquitlam.
Construction is expected to begin later this month on the twinning of an existing gas pipeline, adding a new 900 mm line along the BC Hydro right-of-way. While the route crosses Highway 1, Lougheed Highway, United Boulevard and Austin Avenue, city staff said because the company is boring sections of the line, traffic disruptions are expected to be minimal.
But the Mundy Park off-leash dog area and the bike skills park are expected to be closed for a portion of the construction. The report to council also noted that the company will bore the line near Mundy Creek to minimize environmental impacts.
To compensate the city and its residents for the construction-related disruptions, FortisBC has offered $300,000 for Coquitlam’s community benefit fund. Parks staff said the money could be used to pay for a bike skills park for the green space east of Mariner Way between Chilko Drive and Austin Avenue.
But the money may not be enough to alleviate the concerns of city council.
Coun. Dennis Marsden noted that Kinder Morgan is offering Coquitlam $1 million in mitigation payments for the proposed construction of the Trans Mountain Pipeline project for a corridor “that sees far less traffic” than Como Lake Avenue.
Others on council said that FortisBC should have to ensure that road conditions along Como Lake Avenue are better after work is completed than when construction began.
“I am not going to accept a paved strip down the middle of the lane,” Coun. Craig Hodge said, later adding, “This will be a major inconvenience to commuters.”
A FortisBC spokesperson said the company is currently reaching out to the community and the city to assess the potential traffic impacts. Karen Zukas added that the upgrades are necessary to ensure it is meeting the needs of 210,000 customers.
“Clearly, traffic is top of mind,” Zukas said. “We are working hard to reach out to communities and minimize any impacts as much as possible.”
NOISE CONCERNS WITH GAS PIPELINE
City of Coquitlam engineering staff said noise from an expanded gas compressor station and electrical substation needed to power the enlarged Eagle Mountain Woodfibre Gas Pipeline may disturb residents in the area.
A report to council stated that while the environmental assessment report said ambient noise levels will be within the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission’s noise control guidelines, “this is little consolation to homeowners if an increase in noise disturbs their peace.”
City staff said they will monitor the project during and after construction to see if more noise mitigation — such as insulating above-ground pipes and installing equipment silencers — is necessary.
“We have an understanding that FortisBC, after the construction, will still be prepared to monitor the impact and provide further mitigation if it is necessary,” said Joszef Dioszeghy, Coquitlam’s general manager of engineering and public works.
The Eagle Mountain Woodfibre Gas Pipeline Project will expand the existing pipeline capacity between the Lower Mainland and a small-scale liquefied natural gas facility in Squamish. Construction on the project is expected to begin this fall.