A retaining wall stabilization project for the Marine Drive hump – aimed at avoiding potentially catastrophic slope failure – has been approved by White Rock council, but the project will cause traffic disruption starting in October. (Aaron Hinks photo)

White Rock approves $1 million Marine Drive hump stabilization project

Three-month retaining wall project will involve traffic disruption

Parts of White Rock’s ‘hump’ will be in less danger of crumbling downhill and onto the BNSF railway tracks, now that a contract has been awarded by city council for Marine Drive retaining wall stabilization.

The downside is that the project – scheduled to begin in October – will inevitably result in disruption to vehicle and pedestrian traffic on Marine Drive.

At its July 27 meeting, council approved a $1,065,846 contract for work on the south side of the road between Johnston Road and Cypress Street, with Coun. David Chesney casting the sole vote in opposition.

The winning bid for the contract was submitted by Greystone Design Management Construction Ltd.

The three-month project will include temporary removal of existing sidewalk and curb and reinforced concrete construction including steel pipe piles to shore up the retaining wall. Aimed at remedying instability already evident from cracks in the road and sidewalk displacement, the project would also upgrade the wall to be better able to survive seismic events.

During construction eastbound traffic will be detoured to Buena Vista Avenue or Victoria and Columbia Avenues on a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week basis, although westbound and immediately local two-way traffic will be permitted in the westbound lane.

For pedestrians, the existing westbound parking lane will be repurposed as a temporary walkway, with wooden ramps for accessibility, and temporary traffic barriers to delineate the path.

Resident parking will be relocated to the Cypress Street lot, with parking passes issued to households affected.

READ ALSO: Pressing need for Marine Drive stabilization project, White Rock council told

After review of survey plans and legal documents dating back to White Rock’s separation from Surrey in 1957, and a legal opinion from the city solicitor, staff concluded that the city, rather than BNSF, bears sole responsibility for stabilizing the wall and repairing the road and sidewalk.

According to written and verbal reports to council from engineering and municipal operations director Jim Gordon, risks of a catastrophic retaining wall failure far outweigh the costs and inconvenience of the project.

“The ongoing slippage of the roadway and retaining walls could potentially accelerate, resulting in failure carrying portions of the roadway, sidewalk and underground utilities below onto the BNSF railway tracks,” he wrote.

As well as potential injury and loss of life, Gordon said, it could cause storm sewer damage that could rapidly erode the slope.

It also poses a risk of damage to the sanitary sewer that could pollute the waterfront, loss of the roadway for many months and potential seeking of compensation by the BNSF if the failure affected railway operations.

He estimated costs of repairing such a failure – based on less complicated repairs to Ruth Johnston Park due to a recent slope failure – could easily top $5 million.

Mayor Darryl Walker wondered whether current costs to the city could be offset by provincial or federal funding.

“Is this something that we could consider a shovel-ready project that we may be applying for funding through either level of government?” he asked.

“It would be worth looking at – I don’t think we have anything to lose, if there’s money out there. This is one thing we know we’re going to do and they know we’re going to do – they haven’t given us a heck of a lot recently.”

Chief administrative officer Guillermo Ferrero said the question would be worth examining.

“It would be very challenging to get funding approved before the fall, but I would happily look into it,” he said.


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