Steve Thorlakson: Can we save the headache — and cost — of tearing open 100 Street?


Most reading this will be aware of the city’s plans to have public input on what should be done with 100 Street. What you may not be aware of is that the budget that has been presented (and passed by the time you read this – budget deadline day is May 15 each year), includes a long-term budget of $192 million for upgrading and replacing water and sewer lines. Say it s-l-o-w-l-y: that’s a ton of money. I will deal with both these issues in this column.

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Firstly, hats off to the city for the consultation process. Perhaps too often there has been the “assumption” by politicians that little opposition implies consent or approval. Believe me, that’s just not the case, and remember the two root words in assume – it makes an ass of you and me. 

The city tried something similar in the mid to late 80s, when our economy was in the crapper — because consultants had convinced senior city staff this would reinvigorate downtown. Well, it was a plan from somebody from the South and it was one of the reasons Peter Vandergugten and I ran for council in 1986. Thankfully, that plan died an undignified death. 

Before we get too far into making consultants rich, there is some data that the city should have, and if they don’t, they should get it before this process goes any further. What are the traffic counts on 100 Street from the CN tracks to the Alaska Highway, by type, for each month of the year for at least 12 months? 

Second, given the high probability that the plans will restrict traffic on 100 Street — perhaps by banning anything larger than pickups except for local deliveries – where will that traffic go and what impact will it have on those roads? 

Nobody should expect mayor or council to be expert on these issues, but I’m disappointed with the city manager and her staff if this information is not readily available. The rationale on 100 Street has been they’ll have to dig up the road, replace water and sewer lines, then rebuild the road.

Does anyone besides me remember the fiasco on 101 Avenue in front of the post office? It was closed for months; the contractor went belly up, after a poor selection recommendation by city manager and staff. Surely we don’t want to go there again.

A local company, Surerus Pipeline, is in a joint venture with Murphy Pipelines, an English company, and the JV has been awarded significant portions of the Trans Mountain expasion as well as the Coastal Gaslink pipeline. What you may not know is that Murphy is a world leader in “pulling HDPE (high density polyethylene) and other liners to reinforce water and sewer lines.”

While they do a lot of work in the UK and Europe right now, Murphy is doing a watermain “liner pull” in North Dakota, an environment very similar to ours. We should be seriously examining these options. I suspect they would save a huge amount of money, nevermind saving the disruption and large extra costs in excavation, gravel, restoration, and repaving — not to mention avoiding the trench settlement problems that make some roads like a roller coaster.

Steve Thorlakson is a resident and former mayor of Fort St. John.

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