After months of closures for stormwater infrastructure work, the District of West Vancouver now says the Exit 7 off-ramp for Westmount Road may not reopen until next spring.
The municipality closed Exit 7 in May to allow crews to tunnel under the highway for the Five Creeks stormwater management project. At the time, the district said the closure would likely be in effect until the end of August.
But contractors at the site have hit continued setbacks in the work.
“We recognize the impacts these continued closures have on residents and understand the extension is frustrating,” said Donna Powers, district spokesperson.
The project to provide a safe channel for runoff under the highway has been beset by delays, largely because the soil under the highway turned out to be chock-full of boulders, which required engineers to redesign the project.
After halting work in 2020, drilling resumed this spring with a revised design to split the tunnel in two – a west leg and an east leg. Crews were using a drill designed to puncture through rock, but as they made their way south, they found much looser fill. That required them to pull the drill back and repeatedly clear it of sediment in order to keep the project going.
The changes in plans also required them to clear more regulatory hurdles with the province for the work to continue, according to the district.
If there is a silver lining to the delays, it’s that the final phase of the project – building intakes for the tunnels, which also would have required the ramps to be closed again – can now be done in conjunction with the ongoing work. It had originally been scheduled to start next year.
“We're just going to push through and complete the project and then we won't have to do another closure in 2023,” Powers said.
All of the cost overruns will be borne by British Pacific Properties, which has plans to develop a new village centre north of the highway, requiring a new stormwater management plan. Under the agreement with the district, municipal taxpayers’ costs are capped at $6.25 million.
Since May, residents living in the Westmount, West Bay or Sherman neighbourhoods have mostly used Exit 4 at Woodgreen Drive/Headland Drive by Caulfeild Village and then backtracked on the highway – a detour of about six kilometres, or four minutes, of extra driving time.
When it is complete, the project will greatly reduce the risk of flooding in the neighbourhoods above and below the highway.
“Overall, the project will be completed and residents will benefit from the safety provided by this new infrastructure sooner,” Powers said. “We really appreciate the community’s patience as this project moves into its final stages.”