1999-2000: Early concerns on Skytrain tunnel and planning (4 articles)

1999-2000: Early concerns on Skytrain tunnel and planning (4 articles)

Although the articles below focus more on the Skytrain tunnel area and nearby residents, Moody Centre and other areas also expressed concerns.

Port Moody residents fear expropriations, tunnel impacts: A Monday night meeting about a proposed SkyTrain route through the community was jammed with locals.
The Vancouver Sun, Scott Simpson, Feb. 17, 1999

Public opposition to SkyTrain is gaining ground in some Port Moody neighbourhoods, where residents fear the new transit line could generate crime and noise.

Residents who jammed a meeting that the city staged Monday night to collect public concerns about the project also expressed fears about the expropriation of an unspecified number of homes.

And they indicated by a show of hands that they were largely opposed to having the line routed through their community.

The moderator for the meeting was Mayor Rick Marusyk, who took some heat from residents. The meeting was also attended by other council members, Light Rail Project staff and local MLA Christy Clarke.

The eastern terminus of the route is Coquitlam Town Centre, projected as a high-growth area similar to Burnaby’s Metrotown, and the route envisioned by regional planners and the province requires SkyTrain to go through Port Moody to get there.

Port Moody wants SkyTrain contained in a tunnel all the way from Burquitlam Plaza in Coquitlam, down the North Road corridor, underneath the Seaview neighborhood and emerging only when it arrives at the CP Rail Yard on the Port Moody waterfront.

However, the city acknowledges the train may emerge from its tunnel somewhere in the Seaview neighbourhood, then take an elevated route over the Barnet Highway to the CP Rail yard, to minimize tunnelling costs.

Seaview residents don’t like either possibility.

One woman was alarmed by the idea of SkyTrain emerging from a tunnel just a few feet from her kitchen window, and was also concerned that soft soil underneath her home is not suited to tunnelling.

Seaview residents said they want the province and the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority to abandon the Burquitlam-Port Moody route entirely.

Ron Vit argued it would be cheaper and easier to keep SkyTrain on an at-grade route far to the southeast, skirting Port Moody entirely.

That route, rejected five years ago by the Greater Vancouver regional district, would see SkyTrain go along the Lougheed Highway through Colony Farm and past Riverview Hospital before arriving at Coquitlam Town Centre.

Vit said his own study of the economic costs and benefits of the Port Moody route suggest the Lougheed route would cost half as much money to construct while encouraging growth and yielding the same economic benefits.

“This proposal is way overkill. It is too disruptive to the Port Moody area,” Vit said.

Marusyk, under pressure from the audience, later promised to arrange a meeting between Vit and transit authority staff to determine the accuracy of his calculations.

Speaker Dave Norman said it was clear that residents don’t want SkyTrain going through Port Moody, and that they’re unhappy about the uncertainty surrounding the final configuration of the project.

LRT staff said they won’t even begin laying out their options for the route — options which may or may not coincide with those developed by the city — until the end of March.

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SkyTrain tunnel worries residents of Port Moody
The Vancouver Sun, Scott Simpson, with files from Neal Hall, Jan. 26, 2000

Deborah Nijdam would love to rid herself of the disturbing notion of a SkyTrain tunnel underneath her Port Moody home and the problems it could pose for her once-placid neighbourhood.

But information about the future of their homes and families has been slow to reach Seaview residents, who will be most affected by the new rapid transit line between Lougheed Mall and Coquitlam Town Centre.

In particular, they want access to a geotechnical study that apparently gives the B.C. government’s Rapid Transit Project Office (RTPO) the thumbs-up to proceed with an extensive tunnel through Coquitlam and Port Moody. That approval comes despite a federal geotechnical survey that says the mountainside area is at substantial risk in the event of an earthquake.

The city of Port Moody has acknowledged the risk and is developing a statement to that effect in its official community plan.

Council has undertaken a process that would designate the entire area as hazardous for development.

That designation is only one of several setbacks now facing the province, whose $2-billion project is turning into a runaway horse.

The owners of Lougheed Mall in Burnaby are taking the province to court to resist expropriation of land across the street that the RTPO wants for a new bus loop and SkyTrain station.

The Ontario Pension Board, which owns both the mall and the land across the street, is unhappy that the station and the bus loop won’t be in the mall — something that police, city councils and residents in Burnaby and Coquitlam say is the only reasonable location.

The landowners will argue in court that the expropriation order, served earlier this month, was “served for an improper purpose with a lack of authority and in bad faith.”

Meanwhile, Burnaby council approved a motion on Monday night not to make available land for two SkyTrain stations along the Lougheed Highway until station, road and servicing issues are resolved to council’s satisfaction.

The taxpayer-funded RTPO report about the Port Moody mountainside has been in the hands of SkyTrain project staff since last fall, but has yet to be released to the people who helped pay for it.

“What are the long-term consequences of this project, and what happens if I find that my property is slipping because they’ve destabilized even more?” Nijdam wonders.

“It’s quite frightening. I have a hard time believing that we don’t have a voice in this process. We have a very stable neighbourhood here. I’m a newcomer and I’ve been here 14 years.”

Gary Youngman, director of public consultation for the Rapid Transit Project Office, said he has not read the RTPO’s geotechnical study of the Seaview slope.

But he said he has been apprised of its contents by staff and “There is nothing I’m aware of that indicates there is a problem with soil stability.”

He expects the report to be made public when the final agreement between the province and the regional transit authority, TransLink, is signed — probably before the end of February.

“Then we can go ahead and start the public consultation program,” said Youngman, adding that it makes no sense to discuss various tunnelling options with residents until the costs associated with them have been resolved through the final agreement to build the line.

But Nijdam points to the government’s track record on projects such as the bungled PacifiCat fast ferry, and the collapsed deal to build a new downtown convention centre, and wonders why residents should expect any better with the fast-tracked SkyTrain project

“I don’t know whether they will pay attention to our concerns about safety and I don’t know how they’re going to address them properly.”

Trying to find out what will happen to the single-family home she shares with her three children has become an obsession for Nijdam and many others in Seaview.

It was more than a year ago that the transit project office indicated that a tunnel was the most practical way to overcome a steep grade between Coquitlam and Port Moody.

Since then, some residents have concluded that their homes will be expropriated to make way for SkyTrain — based on vague information contained in maps quietly delivered to Seaview residents last year.

The maps and information they received presented several different route options and at least four different locations where the train could emerge from the tunnel.

Some residents are worried about the train emerging from a tunnel close to their homes.

Still others are fearful that the tunnelling will compromise a steep, gravel covered slope already known for its geologic instability.

Some found seams in their property and cracks in retaining walls during the Barnet Highway widening project three years ago.

Nijdam is worried this project could be much worse.

A federal geological survey, designates the area — including Seaview but known more generally as College Park — as a serious risk in the event of an earthquake.

Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini acknowledges the provincial government has the authority to override the city’s concerns.

But he said council’s move to designate the area as hazardous for development carries a clear message that the city hopes the government will heed.

“We’re telling them, `You’ve decided to do the tunnel. Fair enough. But make sure you are aware of this issue.’ ”

The designation is likely to upset many residents who could see their property values drop as a result.

Seaview resident Lynn Greenaway-King has received maps and lists of options for the SkyTrain route, but can’t seem to find someone in government who will talk to her about the situation.

“There are people on our street who have leaking roofs and don’t know if they want to repair them because they are on the list for expropriation.

Local Liberal MLA Christy Clark said it’s time for the government to replace Jenny Kwan, the minister responsible for transit, with a cabinet minister who can regain control of the project.

“This thing seems to be charging ahead at its own velocity. It’s time for Jenny Kwan to admit she is not up to the task and pass it off to someone who is not focusing all of their energy on the NDP leadership campaign,” Clark said.

Kwan could not be reached for comment.

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Hole lot of trouble: Residents back in the dark after 2nd tunnel report delay
The Province, Feb. 10, 2000

The release of geotechnical reports about a controversial two- kilometre-long SkyTrain tunnel in Port Moody have been delayed again for the second time.

They won’t be released until next Wednesday, two days after Port Moody council is briefed behind closed doors Monday.

Residents affected by the tunnel under their neighbourhood are unhappy about the delay, and Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini called it “very frustrating,” particularly because he and city staff believed they could release the report on Tuesday.

Port Moody staff had the report and were studying it before it was reclaimed Friday by the Rapid Transit Project Office that is building the new SkyTrain.

Gary Youngman of the RTPO’s public consultation department blamed the delay on a miscommunication among the municipality, the RTPO and TransLink, which will be responsible for the new line’s operation.

“The holdup is just the protocol that we discussed,” said Youngman.

The worry in Port Moody is concentrated with residents of the Seaview neighbourhood.

They fear further tunnelling may compromise the notoriously unstable area, which has experienced landslides as recently as during the widening of Barnet Highway, completed in 1996.

“What [the delay] does is make us feel uncomfortable for the residents of Port Moody who have been kept in the dark so long,” Trasolini said of the year-long wait since residents became aware of the tunnel plans.

“Their neighbourhoods are being affected, their homes are affected, they have a right to know” what’s in the reports, he added.

Deborah Nijdam’s windows shook when testing was done for the geotechnical reports and she has watched property values plummet because of the uncertainty surrounding the tunnel.

But she has a bigger complaint.

“What I would really like to know is what the route is really going to cost people,” said Nijdam, 42, who has lived in Seaview for 14 years.

“They can ruin my life, they can take my house,” she added. “I’ve got no recourse to that.

“They can destroy the neighbourhood. Where we live will be hell forever, because our foundations are cracking because of vibrations from SkyTrain.

That may be just a given, that that sort of destruction is considered OK.

“But what about everyone else? This is bigger than us. The answers should be there for everyone.”

But they won’t be — not until next Wednesday.

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New tunnel still an issue in Port Moody
The Province, Frank Luba, Feb. 23, 2000

Residents of the Seaview neighbourhood in Port Moody under which a two-kilometre SkyTrain tunnel will be built remain skeptical about the safety of their community.

They presented their concerns about the geotechnical aspects of the project, as well as fears about costs of the project, to Port Moody Mayor Joe Trasolini and council last night.

Port Moody staff finally received their consultant’s report Monday on the geotechnical portion of the $730-million line to Coquitlam Centre. But it will be another week before the city’s staff have completed their study of the consultant’s study of the Rapid Transit Project Office’s study.

Seaview residents want answers, not studies.

“There’s a lot of blanks that need to be filled in,” said Ron Vit, who faces the loss of his home.

“We just have too many questions and they haven’t answered them in these technical reports,” said Vit.

Based on his discussions with a geotechnical expert, however, RTPO spokesman Paul Skelhorne again tried to allay residents’ fears about landslides

“This thing is going to be so far below them that he’d be very surprised if you’d ever know it was there,” Skelhorne said yesterday.

Trasolini knows Port Moody’s options are limited.

“I can’t stop SkyTrain,” he said.

“Let’s make sure we take the route that has the least impact on the community,” suggested Trasolini.

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