Residents of Pasco Road in West Vancouver say they were shocked recently to see signs telling them the only access to their neighbourhood would be shut down for large chunks of time this summer while crews fixed a faulty retaining wall that’s part of the new Sea-to-Sky Highway.
That’s raised questions — both for neighbours in the 20 homes who will see access to their homes significantly curtailed for the next five months, and for critics, who wonder why such a new highway already needs major repairs.
Jan Easton, who lives on Pasco Road, said he only found out about the plan after he drove by a large flashing sign on the highway warning his road would be closed from April 27 to Sept. 30. Nobody who lives on the road was told in advance about the planned closure he said. Nor were they happy about it.
Pasco Road, a residential street that fronts Howe Sound just north of Horseshoe Bay, only has one access — a road built right next to a large rock retaining wall that is part of what holds up the underside of the Sea-to-Sky Highway.
“It’s a vital link,” he said, adding people who live in the area need to be able to get to work, schools, and other appointments during the day.
“People are still gainfully employed and have to be at certain places at certain times,” he said. One neighbour has Parkinson’s and “he has to go to the hospital regularly.”
The idea of the road being shut for eight hours a day, with just one break in the middle, left residents “slack-jawed,” he said.
Ashok Bhatti, district manager for the Ministry of Transportation and Highways south coast region, said repairs are needed because a review of the project showed the contractor who built the wall — Peter Kiewit and Sons — used parts in the retaining wall that do not meet ministry standards. Bhatti said the wall has been tested by engineers, and there are no safety concerns. But over the lifespan of the highway, problems could develop.
Bhatti said equipment must be brought in for the repairs and there is only one place for it to go.
Staff met with residents on Monday and are now proposing shorter two-hour closures with 15 to 20 minute access in between. Staff have also been talking to emergency crews about how quickly they could get through in an emergency.
Easton said many residents would rather the work be done at night, to minimize inconvenience.
Bhatti said that isn’t a great solution either — both for safety of the workers and quality control. He added some of the work involves drilling and will be loud.
Jordan Sturdy, MLA for West Vancouver Sea to Sky, said he’s spoken with residents and has sympathy with their dilemma. “Obviously there’s no optimal time to do it,” he said. But he added, “Ultimately this work does need to be done.”
Claire Trevena, NDP transportation critic, said she’s concerned the highway retaining wall needs repairing only five years after it was built. “The fact we’re talking about doing repairs for it now is very troubling.”
Bhatti described the problem as an “anomaly,” adding the contractor is paying for the repairs.
So far a decision on when and how Pasco Road will be closed has not been finalized.