Repaving Vancouver street draws residents’ ire

Cover story published in 24 Hours Vancouver | October 14, 2013 | Circulation: 280,000+ 

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It’s barely been a decade since city crews ripped up West 37th Ave, a quiet residential street near Queen Elizabeth Park, for sewer work.

So when “no parking” signs went up last Wednesday evening warning cars would be towed for street repaving at 6 a.m. the next morning, some residents were skeptical.

With vehicles speeding along the side street between Main and Cambie, seemingly undeterred by existing speed humps, some residents are saying slowing traffic should be a priority instead of improving the road.

“We’ve got grandchildren,” resident Al McClean told 24 hours. “We’re always concerned because people are speeding up and down here.

“The speed bumps aren’t that sharp, they’re more level. A guy in a pickup truck won’t even have to slow down. I’m watching right now, and somebody’s speeding!”

In 1999, McClean successfully pushed for speed humps. With the construction of the nearby Canada Line, more drivers are now zooming past his house and the adjacent off-leash dog park for a shortcut.

“I was a little surprised they wanted to pave this,” he said. “They just did it 10 or 12 years ago when they had to rip it up for sewer work … It’s not in bad shape at all.

“We aren’t concerned about not having a nice road out there, that’s fine. We’re more concerned with speed. Nobody’s going to obey the speed limit if the speed bumps aren’t working.”

Other residents echoed McClean’s concerns.

“There’s no potholes,” said Danuta Musial, who lives near 37th and Ontario. “It’s just a normal street.

“To me, it’s a make-work project. There’s nothing wrong with the street. The city is just crazy with construction. Everywhere you go there’s construction. It’s worse than ever.”

Taryn Scollard, the city’s director of streets, said the repaving in question is a “thin lift overlay,” a preventative measure whereby the top few inches of asphalt are replaced. At $21,000 per block, it’s substantially more affordable than waiting until a street degrades completely.

She added West 37th has small cracks and other defects that would impact the base, leading the road to fail.

“If we’d left 37th for a few more years, water would get in and ruin the base,” she explained. “Then it would be uneconomical to pave.

“Once a street gets to a certain condition, unless the operating cost of filling potholes is excessive, it’s really best to let it go completely and redo it.

“You need to catch the streets early, or at the end of their life … We’re never going to have enough money to do everything we want, so where is the best value we can spend for Vancouver taxpayers’ money.”

Musial is outraged that letters explaining the project and associated city-paid towing only arrived as work was already underway.

“The notices went up when it was already dark the night before,” she said. “If you had come home from work and parked your car, you might not have seen the notices … You’d think your car’s been stolen.”

Non-Partisan Association Coun. Elizabeth Ball toured the neighbourhood and believes communication could have been better.

“People would be pleased to know the city is looking after (their street),” she said. “People only tend to get upset about what they don’t know.”

The reason for the late signage and letters is because repaving is unpredictable because of rain, Scollard noted.

“We’ve gotten burned in past,” she explained. “It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

“We could do better job of being a little more timely. We have people deliver the notices as close to the paving as possible.”


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