Work on White Rock’s Marine Drive, which has necessitated single-lane traffic during the lead up to Christmas, will continue at least until mid-January – at even greater cost to the city.
The original work – to avoid potentially catastrophic slope failure above the BNSF tracks by reinforcing the retaining wall on the south side of Marine Drive, east of the pier – was actually ahead of schedule, according to a report written by engineering director and operations manager Jim Gordon.
But discovery of greater deterioration of aging materials in the retaining wall meant council had to decide whether to tack an additional four weeks of repairs – and some $693,000 in costs not budgeted – to ongoing work.
Council also directed staff to realign priorities for other projects in the budget, to accommodate the increases.
The contentious decisions came in split votes at council’s Dec. 7 online meeting, following both written and verbal reports from Gordon.
All of council excepting Coun. David Chesney supported a cost overrun of $210,000 on the original reinforcement work.
But votes to add $500,000 for additional retaining wall repair, and realigning of other project priorities were only narrowly passed, with Chesney, and Couns. Scott Kristjanson and Christopher Trevelyan opposed.
“This is our house, this is Marine Drive, and we know why we were doing the initial work, ” Mayor Darryl Walker commented, before the votes were called.
“Some of this (original) work is as much as 60 years old. We can either do it now or do it later, but one way or another, we’re going to have to do it. The road is ripped up. It’s going to be in January when there won’t be as much traffic as there may be in another time when we re-do this.”
“We don’t want to be ripping the sidewalks up again when we have the opportunity to rip them up now…to me it makes total sense to do it now,” Coun. Helen Fathers said, while noting the way the need for further work had been presented had led to confusion among council.
Responding to push-back from Chesney and Kristjanson – who voiced concerns about apparently escalating costs of the initial project – Gordon explained that overruns were partly due to the need for additional traffic control around the site.
Chief administrative officer Guillermo Ferrero underlined that total cost overrun to the project as originally approved was $210,000.
What council was being presented with was a further option to do repair work while the road and retaining wall had been excavated, he said.
The contract, awarded to Greystone Design Management Construction Ltd. for $1,065,846 this summer, called for 73 steel pipe pile installations in the area between the pier area and Cypress Street.
Also included was full-depth road reconstruction, removal of sidewalk, and exposing the bin walls for further geotechnical investigation once the sidewalk and handrails were removed.
Gordon’s written report explained that assessment, by consultants GeoWest Engineering, found that galvanized steel bin walls used for the for a 45-metre section of the retaining wall had deteriorated sufficiently that they would need replacement within five years.
The bin wall would eventually fail, Gordon said, “triggering a landslide in the surrounding retained soils, impacting the BNSF railway tracks and the adjacent promenade.”
“When we contemplated the project, we didn’t know if the bin walls would need to be repaired or not,” he told council.
“We found that they were deteriorating faster than we thought… those walls are not expected to last any longer than 10 years, and they should be repaired within five years.”
If repairs are done now, Gordon said, it will bring completion of the project into “mid- to late-January, which was the original completion date.”
Vehement opposition was voiced by Chesney, who noted his was the sole vote against the project when it was first discussed during the summer (he had argued at that time that the BNSF Railway should shoulder the costs of slope stabilization).
“I certainly cannot, in any way, shape or form, support another $700,000 onto this project,” he said.
“How we could have missed that, I have no idea. This is a tremendous jump in what, I believe, was an expenditure the taxpayers of White Rock shouldn’t have incurred in the first place. I’m startled that, all of a sudden, now there’s another $700,000 added to a $1.1 million project.”
Kristjanson echoed Chesney’s comments.
“Even though I voted for this, because I didn’t feel like having the road slide into the ocean… a 65 per cent increase in budget seems astonishing.”
Gordon replied that while the stabilization of Marine Drive was always a priority, repairing the steel bins was a secondary project that the city could not have anticipated until three or four feet of ‘overburden’ – soil, road and sidewalk – were removed at the site.
“We’re not saying that that $500,000 is part of this project, or that it even needs to be done now,” he said.
“It’s a separate project that could be done within five years, or we could take the opportunity to do it now, while the contractor is on site. There are some savings there in mobilization costs.”