Commuters in Coquitlam were dealing with major headaches Thursday, after a “sinkhole” developed along FortisBC’s gas line construction site.
What FortisBC calls a “ground movement” of 20 centimetres occurred just east of Robinson Street on Como Lake Avenue, the city’s major east-west arterial, on Tuesday and has forced a partial closure of the route.
The road is closed to all westbound local traffic between Blue Mountain Street and Robinson Street.
Detours had previously been in place for residential traffic, only allowing city crews and first responders through the route.
WATCH: Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart spoke to Global News about the sinkhole situation Thursday morning
The damage has outraged Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart who says along with being a major commuter route, the corridor is home to two elementary schools and a middle schools.
“It has created a real headache for the traffic,” he told Global News.
Compounding the mayor’s ire is the fact that Coquitlam previously refused to grant FortisBC a permit for work on the route.
Stewart said the city’s main concern was the fact that the gas company intends to leave its old 20-inch pipe in the ground, crowding an already heavily used utility corridor.
WATCH: (Aired Jan. 18) Coquitlam mayor on Fortis gas line upgrades
“They’ve told us bluntly that if we want it removed, even though it’s their garbage, we have to remove it at our cost. We felt that was unfair. We didn’t issue the permits and the BCUC overruled us and allowed the work to go ahead.”
FortisBC said Stewart’s comments are not accurate, citing a BCUC ruling from April saying the costs of removing the old pipeline would be split between the company and the city if a municipal project needed the space.
It’s not the first time problems with gas-line work have caused commuter headaches in Coquitlam.
WATCH: Coverage of the FortisBC gas line upgrades on Globalnews.ca
Stewart said there was a similar roadway collapse during 2017 work on the same project along Mariner Way, which he said resulted in “several toxic spills of drill slurry into local creeks, along with unexpected road closures.”
Stewart said work to repair the sinkhole will likely be difficult as crews will need to ensure they protect existing underground utilities.
FortisBC says the issue at the site “isn’t a sinkhole,” and is the type of incident that can happen during projects involving deeper excavations.
“That’s why we have a rigorous safety monitoring program and operating policies in place to maintain safety for the public and our crews, and enable us to quickly respond to events such as this,” said the company in a statement.
FortisBC says it has notified the city and local residents about the detours, and is working with the RCMP to manage traffic control.
—With files from Sean Boynton