When Craig Gagnon leaves his job at night, he has to run a gauntlet of cars that makes the young pet store manager fear for his life.
Turning either right or left out of the Mr. Pet's parking lot at 1555 United Blvd., where he works, is an extreme hazard because the sight line onto the busy road is blocked by blue hoarding.
The hoarding — now ubiquitous along United Boulevard for several blocks — hides the construction work for the new Trans Mountain pipeline.
“It’s scary,” he said.
According to Gagnon, the sight line problem has been an issue for him and his staff, as well as for customers — many of whom also complain that the hoarding also hides the store entrance.
The fencing also blocks the store’s signage, making it difficult for the store to attract customers.
Mr. Pet's has only been open since May 2021, making the ongoing construction a huge issue for the new store, said Gagnon, and while Trans Mountain provides flaggers, they aren't on duty after construction hours.
He said Mr. Pet's has raised its concerns with Trans Mountain several times.
“They stick to their guns and say it’s safe.”
He’d like to see improved signage so customers can easily find the store, as well as improved safety measures when flaggers leave for the day or aren’t around on weekends.
Even the city’s mayor is upset by the potential safety hazards created by the blue hoarding.
Mayor Richard Stewart said he asked the city’s engineering department to speak further with Trans Mountain to address the safety concerns.
“When I was by, it was obvious the sight lines are severely compromised by the fenced screens,” said Stewart.
Although Trans Mountain has posted signs indicating businesses are open, they are small and difficult to see when driving along the narrow one-lane route through the construction project on United Boulevard.
Construction has been ongoing for several months with no end in sight.
According to Trans Mountain, efforts have been made to keep businesses informed about the project’s status, and safety is a priority.
“We have reached out and spoken with the owner and manager of Mr. Pet's about this concern around signage and are working directly with them to address it,” a company spokesperson stated in an email.
Construction in the area is being done in phases along United Boulevard, Hartley Avenue, Rogers Avenue and on private properties, with some work concluding at the end of April and some at the end of the year.
“We will continue to keep local businesses informed of progress and completion,” the spokesperson stated.
But whether that's enough, the City of Coquitlam has little leverage.
It has no jurisdiction over the project, which is owned by the federal government.
The city originally opposed the pipeline location along United Boulevard, but the route was approved by the Canada Energy Regulator anyway, said Stewart.
“I think they need to make sure the impacts on the community and the businesses are dealt with and the project is moving along at a pace that gets rid of those impacts as quickly as possible.“
Trans Mountain, meanwhile, said it is already working with businesses to reduce the impact of construction, including creating a Business Support Plan with the support of the Tri-Cities Chamber of Commerce and providing regular updates.
“Safety is our number one priority. Trans Mountain’s Traffic Management Team are constantly monitoring the area to ensure sight lines are deemed adequate for driving purposes,” stated a company spokesperson in an email to the Tri-City News.
“Our commitment to businesses is to keep at least one driveway accessible for their employees, customers, and delivery vehicles. All driveways are secured by a traffic control person during construction hours.
“When traffic control persons are not present at driveway accesses, there is no significant construction traffic impacting that location, and drivers need to proceed with caution.”