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‘Scary’ bumps on Delta’s Hwy. 17 to cost more than $3M to fix, province says

Click to play video 'Repairs to sinking highway in Delta to cost millions' Repairs to sinking highway in Delta to cost millions
WATCH: It's now costing millions to repair the "garbage bumps" on the South Fraser Perimeter Road, which were formed as the highway sinks into the ground of an old landfill. Ted Field reports – Aug 24, 2019

Less than six years after it was built, a section of the South Fraser Perimeter Road in Delta is sinking.

Now the Ministry of Transportation is spending more than $3 million to repair the Highway 17 stretch, which was built over an old landfill and has formed what drivers are calling “garbage bumps.”

The mounds were formed as the section west of 96 Street and the Alex Fraser Bridge slowly contorted and sunk, making it dangerous to drive at the posted speed limit of 80 kilometres per hour.

“It’s pretty ridiculous,” said one driver who didn’t want his name used. “I just have to take it easy so I don’t scratch the bottom. The kids think it’s fun, but it’s not really for the vehicles.”

READ MORE: Fires in Burns Bog could become more common, warn conservationists

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The troubling stretch sits in the Delta North riding overseen by NDP MLA Ravi Kahlon, who admits the bumps are a problem.

“The bumps are pretty scary,” he said. “People who commute through this area, people who live in this area … they know it’s not a small little bump. When you hit that thing, you’re getting off the ground quite high.”

In a statement, the ministry said it has already spent $600,000 in November 2018 to pave the 200-metre stretch, which it called an “interim” fix.

Despite that paving work, the road has continued to sink. Signs were later installed in April advising people about the bumps.

WATCH (July 4, 2016): Conservationists raise concerns about impact of South Fraser Perimeter Road on Burns Bog

Click to play video 'Conservationists raise concerns about impact of South Fraser Perimeter Road on Burns Bog' Conservationists raise concerns about impact of South Fraser Perimeter Road on Burns Bog
Conservationists raise concerns about impact of South Fraser Perimeter Road on Burns Bog – Jul 4, 2016

Now Kahlon says another $3 million will have to be spent over the next five years to continue that paving work annually, while the ministry look towards a more permanent solution.

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“This is proof that you can’t just pave over your mistakes,” he said. “There should have been no surprises, given the history of the land, that something more needed to be done. Now we’re paying for it.”

The four-lane South Fraser Perimeter Road opened in December 2013, connecting Highway 1 to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal and cutting commute time between the two in half.

READ MORE: Confusion for drivers in Delta after South Fraser Perimeter Road partially re-opens

The road, which cost $1.26 billion to build, was constructed over Burns Bog and the former Delta Shake and Shingle landfill site. The dump caught fire in the 1990s and created a hazardous mess that cost millions to clean and prompted a local state of emergency.

The ministry said in its statement that some of the sinking, which it calls “post-construction settlement,” was anticipated due to geotechnical challenges with the soft soil composition at the landfill site.

The road was built to mitigate those issues “as much as possible,” the ministry added.

“We expect the area to continue slowly settling for another three to five years, and once it is stabilized then staff can establish a permanent solution,” the statement reads, adding the cost of that solution will be determined after it is designed.

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WATCH (Aug. 1, 2018): Highway sulphuric acid spill in Trail, B.C. damages hundreds of vehicles

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Highway sulphuric acid spill in Trail, B.C. damages hundreds of vehicles – Aug 1, 2018

Kahlon is pinning the blame for the bumps squarely at the B.C. Liberals, whose government oversaw and approved the South Fraser Perimeter Road project.

He says that government should have properly pre-loaded the ground, which would have ensured it was prepared to handle the weight of the road and subsequent traffic.

“Here in my community, we call them the ‘B.C. Liberal garbage bumps,'” he said. “I think the previous government had some cost overruns and said, ‘listen, let someone else deal with it, it’s somebody else’s problem.’

“We can’t seem to get answers from anybody on what their rationale was for not building this properly.”

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READ MORE: Expect delays on Coquihalla Highway because of lane closures, repair work: Ministry of Transportation

Liberal MLA for Richmond-Queensborough Jas Johal says the highway has proven itself to be popular and successful in cutting down commuting time, and any issues will be taken care of.

“There’s always challenges creating infrastructure projects, whether it’s in the North or the Interior or the Lower Mainland,” he said. “Problems do come up, but guess what? We can deal with those small problems and still move people.”

Johal says the previous government took the advice given to them by staff at the time, and rejected attempts to lay the issue of the bumps at the Liberals’ feet.

READ MORE: Why do trucks hit overpasses? Because B.C. drivers aren’t trained not to: trucking association

WATCH (Jan. 18): Ratepayers on hook for $1.2 million repair cost for 152nd Street overpass

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Ratepayers on hook for $1.2 million repair cost for 152nd Street overpass – Jan 18, 2019

“We built the Sea to Sky Highway, we built the Canada Line, we built the Port Mann Bridge — those are all major projects,” he said. “I’m not sure one roadway going to Highway 1 is going to be such a challenge to get fixed.”

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Until the bumps are fixed for good, the ministry advises drivers not to travel above the posted speed limit and be mindful of the road.

But Kahlon says drivers and their safety will continue to be impacted.

“I’m worried about people who are driving big trucks who haven’t gone through here before,” he said. “I’m worried about tourists coming off the ferries who don’t know it’s that big of a bump. It’s concerning.”

—With files from Ted Field