New West rejects nighttime construction request

New Westminster city council has rejected a plan that would have allowed construction to take place near the Brewery District at night – even though it was requested by city staff.

Council recently considered a request for a construction noise bylaw exemption that would allow crews to lay electrical conduit along Brunette Avenue from Keary Street to Spruce Street as part of the Wesgroup construction project. Had the request been approved, crews would have been able to do the work  on five separate nights, depending on the weather, between Oct. 7 and 25.

During that timeframe, three nights of work would have been done between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., at which time southbound traffic along Brunette would have been limited to one-lane only. Two nights of work would have occurred between midnight and 5 p.m., with only one lane being available for alternating traffic in both directions.

Kim Deighton, the city’s manager of licensing and integrated services, said engineering staff were concerned about work being done on a major route during the day on a busy commuter route.

“In terms of cost and convenience to them, the day is preferable. I get the sense they are flexible,” she said about the contractor. “It’s the weather that is the limiting factor. It’s really playing dice with what the weather will be for that period of time. We are going into the rainy season – that’s the problem.”

Coun. Patrick Johnstone opposed the variance, preferring the work be done during the day.

“I am trying to prioritize sleep and livability for residents in the neighbourhood, over the need of regional commuters to get through our city,” he said.

Coun. Nadine Nakagawa said she’d like future requests of this type to include information about the number of people who could be potentially impacted by nighttime construction work.

“Our staff is asking us to do this. These guys don’t mind doing it during the day and blocking all the traffic,” said Coun. Chuck Puchmayr, who supported the variance. “One thing to remember is some of that traffic is our very efficient transit system that is going from SkyTrain to SkyTrain station. Some of that traffic is B.C. Ambulance, one of the biggest hospitals in the region.”

Because a vote to grant an exemption to the city’s construction noise bylaw ended in a tie vote, the request was defeated.

Coun. Chinu Das, who was concerned the request sought a 19-day window to do five nights of work, put forward a motion that the variance cover 10 days. That motion also resulted in a tie vote.

“They don’t get a nighttime variance,” said Mayor Jonathan Cote. “They will do the work during the day.”

Jim Lowrie, the city’s director of engineering, said the city doesn’t have any dates at this time for when the work will begin.

“We have requested the proponent to prepare a comprehensive traffic management plan (TMP) for our review and approval,” he said in an email to the Record. “At a minimum, the TMP would address mitigation strategies for preventing traffic bleeding into adjacent neighbourhoods, and vehicle queuing onto Highway 1 and Front Street. The TMP will also include a communications plan to ensure advance public notification to all stakeholders including area residents and road users.”


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