Sea to Sky highway retaining walls safety inspection reports released, raise more questions on quality of build and maintenance.

One of the advantages to blogging is the ability to follow up on stories as many times as one needs to get to the bottom of it. And as is becoming more common with stories involving the BC provincial government, it’s a matter of digging deeper,looking beyond the ministry media handler statements and sometimes going back and comparing them to new ones.

Such is the story of everything to do with the Sea to Sky highway, that lovely scenic drive and engineering marvel that takes one out to Squamish and Whistler. Not only scenic, its construction,cost and maintenance has been a source of many stories that give British Columbians a glimpse into how major projects are built and paid for.

Stories like the reason there why will never be a toll on that highway – at least until the current contractual obligations are paid out. The hidden shadow toll is based on vehicle usage counts and distance, and is included as a part of the total payment to the concessionaire ( the private partners the government must pay back every month for footing the bill of the construction) If you are a newer reader, you can find all those stories on my Best Of page, just over half way down :

Another story that has been just as compelling for me because of the potential implications of the research, revolves around the more than 200 retaining walls built along the Sea to Sky highway.

On April 30th, 2014 I broke the story that the Ministry of Transportation was investigating the condition of a series of retaining walls after photos were taken that showed gaps between blocks, seepage outside of drains, blocked drains, and walls that were wavy and in some cases bulging.

The ministry responded on  May 1st,2014, that they had done their own investigation and that the issues were all merely cosmetic in nature.

In November of 2014, it was discovered that Kiewit had inspected their own work as per a Ministry of Transportation Operation managers emails, who advised the ministry was reviewing what Kiewit had discovered.

It was then revealed – not by government but by a resident in the area of the repair – in April,2015 that two other retaining walls on the Sea to Sky highway that showed little to no visible defects, were undergoing extensive repair work.

Transportation minister Todd Stone was on the hot seat in the legislature looking nervous that week, but instead of answering any meaningful questions he tried to deny,deflect and discredit the opposition who were finally doing their job well.

Just days later it was revealed by yet another Ministry of Transportation manager that Kiewit, the builder of the highway, had used substandard materials.

Repairs have been ongoing this summer at the Pasco Road rebuild and at the CN rail overpass near Brandywine falls past Squamish, and in both cases the repairs are extensive in scope.  But why such extensive rebuilds?

An FOI  requested and released to someone in the media in August of this year, gives some insight into what went wrong on these two walls in particular. And the results are damning.

A letter dated June 17th,2014 from Hatch Mott McDonald to Sea to Sky highway builder Kiewit,  states that Kiewit flagged those two walls for internal review and testing, after an internal Kiewit audit showed the possibility that deformed wire was used in the walls instead of the contract standard wire. ( pg 98-106 below)

The safety inspection reports also show that despite the Ministries earlier claim in May 2014 that a full investigation had already been undertaken of the walls, the safety inspections were not conducted until October 2014, a full 5 months after I first broke the story.

The FOI package includes  just 12 inspection reports from 2013. In all, most walls were rated well, with several in the fair to poor range for particular components. All the issues identified by the photos posted here previously are noted, including erosion, drainage issues, water seeping between blocks, misaligned blocks, walls built of out line resulting in a wavy formation, bulges of compacted fill walls, a result of over compaction during construction.

Motion sensors also tracked movement on the walls reported here earlier for a period of time and no significant motion was detected.

However, questions remain as to how and why substandard material was used in the construction of the CN wall and the Pasco Road wall, and why it took until this point in time to address it.

Questions also remain as to why walls clearly built out of line and with defects were approved as acceptable for completion, considering the cost of building this highway. This is something I have never been able to get an answer on from the ministry of Transportation but is concerning to me for a couple of reasons.

  1. The highway is only  6 years old in some areas. To have so many issues that need maintenance and repair -some that are extensive- at such a young age indicates issues during construction that someone still signed off on. If things are popping up so quickly, and in at least a couple of cases are still not being addressed, what can we expect for the longevity of this highway?
  2. Kiewit is on half of the partnership with Flatiron that built the Port Mann Bridge, which also had very tight contractual deadlines, and also experienced significant issues during construction. The continual decline and eventual replacement of a brand new retaining wall on Lougheed Highway and the gantry collapse are just two. Kiewit has had a long history of issues in the US and elsewhere in Canada, which are detailed here.

With industry sources indicating there have already been incidents of spalling under the  new Port Mann ( falling concrete bits and pieces) and geotechnical issues with settlement.soft earth at both the north and south ends, one wonders if  BC’s great transportion projects will suffer the same crumbling fate as those in Montreal. 

Calls to the Ministry of Transportation made this morning, were not returned as of the time of this posting. I’m not surprised – I would have hard time explaining how an $800 million plus highway ended up like this too. ( and that doesn’t include the 25 years of PS payments either…)

Pasco Road retaining wall rebuild.
Pasco Road retaining wall rebuild.

IMG_20150819_142012 (2)

Hindsight is only helpful if you apply the lesson learned to future actions.

It was a day like any other day of my childhood summers; quick breakfast,clothes on and then running out the door to do the morning rounds of the yard.Checking to see where all the salamanders and toads had settled for the night was always the first thing on my mind,since I found both creatures so interesting.

Next up was a stop in the garden to quickly raid the raspberries or pea patch if it was the season-quickly because if mom caught us eating the goods meant to freeze for fall there would be trouble! Our garden wasn’t for looks,it was for necessity.

As I headed off to the edge of the garden to go down to the creek, I stopped  to pull the green bits out of some Indian Paintbrush growing in the ditch, sucking what little nectar a butterfly would find hard to release, with relish.

I loved our road.

At that time there were only a few homes besides ours,all on acreage and surrounded by lovely forests full of kinnickinnick, huckleberries, and native plants I’d weave into vines to make crowns for my hair. Free time in summer was spent looking for agates on the road, riding bikes all over and for me, playing at the creek.

It was on the far bank of the creek where I was exploring that I saw it. A flower unlike anything I had ever seen before anywhere in the forests around our house, or camping in the bush. To a young girl growing up in an area like this, it seemed alien and exotic in comparison to the daisies and Indian paintbrush so common elsewhere.


I sat there for a while, completely in awe. I looked around and could see no others. Where did this flower come from? How did it get here? So many questions for a young girl with no answers.

And then I picked it.

It was wilting even before I could get it home to a glass of water and completely limp shortly afterwards. I had killed it.

I recall very clearly going back and searching the forest floor all around the creek banks on both sides, then going around the forest in the back yard in my desperation to find another, but there were none. I was devastated in the knowledge of what I had willingly, without thought,done.

And for the rest of my years growing up in my childhood home, I never saw another flower like it. Even as an adult visiting home I have looked,although the creek is all but gone now and there are more homes in place of the forests of my youth- to no avail.

I know now, it was a native orchid often found in boreal forests and sub-alpine/alpine meadows in the province, called Calypso Bulbosa, or the Fairy Slipper orchid. I’ve seen them hiking in Whistler and around Manning Park but apparently I picked the only one that somehow found its way to the creek by my yard.

And even as a woman in my forties, I’ll never forget the feeling of regret of my action. I can’t go back and unpick that flower, but I can apply what I learned  in this stark lesson elsewhere. Sadly, I don’t often see that need to reflect in government.

They say hindsight is 20/20- and perhaps it is, but it only serves a purpose if you learn and act accordingly. Otherwise it’s about as useful as smoke in the wind.

For example, the housing and affordability crisis in Vancouver. While it’s still making the news, it’s anything but a new problem. Looking back there have been signs and complaints years for years but to what result? Not much until it now-again-makes the news and politicians muse solutions,spurred only act when public outrage reaches a level that can’t be ignored.

In Delta, farmland is once again under threat of expropriation in a time when drought and climate change is threatening crops elsewhere,creating higher prices in supermarket for many products. Looking back, this isn’t new either, yet I can foresee the day when politicians look back and go:”What the hell were we thinking??” Once that land is gone, it’s gone. Do we want to risk our food security at a local level?

Surrey is still, rampantly deforesting to build and there are stories popping up now of new homes on ALR land approved without due process. The pressures of phenomenal growth without keeping pace with vital social infrastructure is starting to show in ongoing issues around the city. Roads are in crumbles in many areas, yet this has been known and allowed willingly to fester for years. Playing catch-up is never a fun game when it comes to a community.

Forest fires this year already a massive concern, but has the province learned anything from past events? Have forest communities been built differently, more safely? Is scrub being removed, controlled burns being conducted,and are crews sent out early and aggressively enough? According to some people I’ve talked to, no. Communities need to be asking why.

It’s as much about learning from our past, as it is, taking care of the basics. I don’t like the words, shoulda, woulda, coulda….Sometimes you have to take a break, look at what you know and where you have been, so you can figure out the best way forward, for everyone.

Because although I believe it is never too late to change course and head in the right direction, it’s equally true that sometimes you only get one opportunity to really get it right. 

And do you really want to take that chance?

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.”~ Theodore Roosevelt

Denial, deflect, discredit.

When I published the photos of the conditions of just three of the 219 retaining walls on the Sea to Sky Highway last year, the Ministry of Transportation said the issue was merely cosmetic, and that the walls are inspected annually. 

Then the news that in fact a fourth retaining wall needed significant  structural repairs such as soil anchors installed, along with a new reinforced wall face. Work would take 6 months. Residents below the wall were rightfully angry at the inconvenience,and distrustful of the contradiction between the need for repairs… and the word that everything was fine.

NDP transportation critic Claire Trevena had some questions for Transportation Minister Todd Stone in the legislature earlier this week, and I promised a transcript for you. Better yet,Ms.Trevena has posted a video so that you may see for yourself the questions Ms. Trevena asked… and the answers Mr. Stone gave.

I’m not sure whose questions he was answering,but they certainly weren’t the ones she was asking.

This is your government in action. He denied, deflected and then tried to discredit because he did not want to answer these questions. Nor was he ordered to answer the question despite his foray into the Netherlands of his mapped route of deflection.

It wasn’t until much later that Minister Stone advised media Kiewit and the S2S Transportation Group  would be covering all the costs for the repairs,and that ” making repairs like this to a project just five years after its completion is normal.

Actually, according to project documents, the design lifespan for these retaining walls is 75 years:

Pg 6 here

Pg 4 here:

Installing soil anchors that help hold the wall in place, and building an entirely new reinforced wall face, are not normal, routine repairs. It would be comparable to buying a brand new home only to move in and a year later, find out the foundation needs to be re-done.

Would you consider that normal? No.

And lets not forget those Ministry of Transportation emails I have contradicting the first public claim that walls are inspected annually – made last year – and Stones new statement that staff are inspecting things daily around the province.

Or that according to that same Ministry employee, Kiewit found no changes or anything of concern with the walls in question.

Which is more than likely the reason why Kiewit and the S2S Transportation Group is on the hook now which for what is clearly a defective wall.

Some of you might be wondering why this matters, or why this really pisses me off so much, so let me tell you. If you don’t care, move along.

I’ve always been a bit of a policy wonk who endlessly thinks of ways to make a better province. So, back in 2008 when I was really more than a bit peeved that the Golden Ears and the Port Mann was to be tolled, while the Sea to Sky highway was not, I started doing some research to find out why those decisions were made.

In my view then, it was ridiculous that the Golden Ears was tolled while the Sea to Sky was not. A responsible government would take advantage of the traffic out to one of our most scenic drives and tourist destinations, make it resident/business exempt and charge tolls: you want to play, you have to pay. I feel the same way now,but sadly the last Liberal government signed away the right to toll that highway on the P3 contract.

By October 2009, still developing my contacts and sources, I had yet to find out why that highway wasn’t tolled. And again, I called for tolls on that highway as a source of revenue for this province.   ( of course no one listened to me back then, I was just a blogger… : )
It wasn’t until 2010 that sources in the industry revealed to me the reason why it was never tolled… and never would be until the contract with the P3 partner was up.

And that was the beginning of the now infamous Shadow Toll series that ended up receiving national coverage courtesy of Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail. 

I had received confidential documents from insiders to the deal that had  signed confidentiality agreements not to speak about the project details until it was done. And when it was done, they revealed all, in conferences, in bulletins and much more. Financiers bragged of the lucrative nature of the shadow tolls… something our government affectionately refers to as ” vehicle usage payments”.  The private partner makes so much money on this highway, that the financer sold their share to a private fund a couple of years ago.

Now, every time you or I drive that highway, we inadvertently help make a reliable and strong rate of return on other people’s retirement investments. In a wobbly world economy, P3 projects like this highway are considered a very safe investment.

But I digress.

In the face of all this documented, now public evidence,  our government when confronted, lied to the press, taking advantage of the lack of specific industry and contract terminology knowledge they had. They said it wasn’t true.

I couldn’t believe it. (If you care to spend a bit of time rehashing all of it, head over to the Best Of page where  it is still listed.

There were more stories uncovered that again, were denied, deflected and the effort to discredit was intense. And it still is whenever a column or blog post hits home. Reporters often like to say when the fire is incoming over your shoulder you know you are close to your target: there is trash talk, there are rumours,anything to deflect the attention from the story at hand.

Just like Todd Stones response to Claire Trevena. He won’t simply say the contractor screwed up and we are likely going to have some serious repairs coming all over this highway but we don’t want to talk about that…..because it opens a massive barrel of worms no government anywhere would want to talk about.

Ask Quebec.

He starts talking about how the NDP had issues or opposed projects while the Liberals built them. And on. And then some more.

And he never does answer how it is that a highway that cost so much damn money, is needing serious structural repairs after only 5 years.

Nor does he take the chance to negate all of this by providing the inspection reports that Kiewit conducted or agreeing to an independent agency review of those walls.

Why does this matter?

Because the funny thing about retaining walls is that it can be pretty hard to predict what going on behind them. Kiewit already did substandard work on one retaining wall on the Port Mann Project that had to be rebuilt. And court cases resulted following the collapse of of a highway widening project retaining wall that collapsed during construction in California. And while the walls on the sea to sky may not be in danger of collapsing,the province refuses to be straightforward about any of this.

So,yes, those inspection reports of Kiewits on these retaining walls do matter. Because like the shadow toll story, this one is becoming rife with contradictions,spin and deflections.

But what do I know? I’m just a writer, not a transportation minister.

Extensive repair work planned for Sea to Sky retaining wall – one year after problems on 3 others first reported here.

Breaking news by Dave White of News 1130 yesterday, after receiving a tip on a work order given to West Vancouver residents of work on a retaining wall:

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Roughly five years after a major rebuild was completed, News1130 has learned the Sea to Sky Highway already needs significant repairs.

A retaining wall in West Vancouver is causing problems.

It’s just north of the Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal, above Pasco Road, a small, residential road with remote access.

A construction bulletin was sent by the province to people living on that road on April 8th, telling them soil anchors need to be installed, and a new-reinforced wall face needs to be constructed.

For people living in the area, this means no access to their homes for eight hours a day from this time next week until the end of September.

The Sea to Sky Highway was largely rebuilt by contractors Peter Kiewit and Sons for the Olympics, completed in 2009.

This is not the first retaining wall built by Kiewit on the South Coast that has needed repair. Back in 2011, a retaining wall in Coquitlam as part of the Highway One expansion had to be rebuilt.

It was April 30th, 2014 when I first broke the story of how troubling photos of 3 other retaining walls on the Sea to Sky highway,had prompted the Ministry of Transportation to re-inspect all of the walls:

The Ministry of Transportation is investigating the condition of at least three MSE (Mechanically Stabilized Earth) retaining walls along the Sea to Sky Highway, according to sources close to the project.

This action finally comes after specific Ministry employee’s received the photos shown below – in February of this year – that show clear flaws, deficiencies and structural concerns that sources indicate out-of-spec walls. Major defects show large open gaps in the concrete panels, water seepage behind walls, walls that are “out of batter” ( leaning the wrong way) and possible vertical movement of the walls. *terminology link found here for reference.

In some areas, the gaps are so wide that the tongue and groove elements are no longer meshed and it is possible to reach in and feel the geotextile cloth behind. While the photos were taken earlier this year in a cold snap, follow-up visits during rainy weather have shown very little water coming out of installed drainage pipes installed for such purpose, and a build up of water behind the wall with seepage from under the wall in other areas.

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The response from the Ministry at that time was that they had investigated all the walls, and that it was merely a cosmetic issue. The BCNDP did not comment at that time, although they were fully apprised of the situation.

In November of 2014, I followed up that post with another, with excerpts from emails indicating that Kiewit – the builder of the highway- had inspected their own work:

In May of this year ministry officials stated that they had inspected the walls following receipt of the photos.

However,email correspondence from a Ministry of Transportation operations manager in September of this year,indicated it was actually highway builder Kiewit, that had inspected and reviewed the walls:

“I am out of town at the moment but wanted to give you a quick update.  We just received some information from Peter Keiwett regarding the walls in Horseshoe Bay.

Their investigation and review did not note any changes or concerns with the walls.

We are reviewing what was submitted.” 

I contacted the operations manager in question, “to confirm whether or not MOTH( ministry of transportation and highways) had reviewed the Kiewit inspections of the MSE( mechanically stabilized earth) retaining walls on the Sea to Sky, and what the findings were.
Has the ministry done their own inspection since the photos were taken?”

His response:

Thank you for getting in touch with me on the status of the retaining walls built as part of the Sea to Sky project.  To answer your question, Yes our team have reviewed the correspondence/documentation and walls along the Upper Levels.

 I’ll also note that the walls underwent an inspection in 2013 and another routine inspection is planned for 2018, as per the Ministry’s standard frequency of every five years for this type of structure.  There were no significant structural issues identified during the inspections.”

No ‘significant’ structural issues…. just minor ones.  On a highway that is only 5 years old.

I asked then:

The ministry representative and operation manager have not responded further to the following questions:

1) What structural issues-minor or not- have been discovered and what is the plan for remediation?

2) Are any costs involved covered by warranty  or does the province absorb the cost?

3) Who has signed off on the integrity of the wall?

To this day, and this new story, there are no answers to those questions.

Today NDP transportation critic Claire Trevena brought up the most recent repair in the legislature,asking why repairs are needed on what is essentially a brand new highway and asked the Minister of Transportation Todd Stone to submit the safety reports/audit of the retaining walls.

Minister Stone replied that at times mitigating work is done on all corridors in the province( making this sound like routine maintenance), and completely and quite shamefully evaded her questions on the safety/inspection reports by talking about how the NDP opposed many projects in the province! ( As one reader asked online: Is the new Liberal version of Stone-walling? Clever!)

And that was it. ( I’ll post a transcript as it becomes available)

The work that the ministry is conducting on the Pasco Road retaining wall  are not minor repairs. This is 5 months of work to not only install soil anchors, but to construct a new reinforced facing.

Soil anchors installed in retaining walls after they are built, are done so to reinforce and repair retaining walls damaged by lateral loads, or those showing signs of stress or failure.

Here’s an example of what they look like, installed in a retaining wall on a Hwy 1 overpass years after construction


The anchors are drilled into the wall, typically at an angle to provide support and prevent further movement.

One would not expect these kinds of repairs typically in a highway only 5 years old, which leads me back to my original posts ,and questions linked to above.

There are 216 retaining walls built into this highway, and the three I detail in photos at the above links show alarming changes- for the amount of money this highway cost, somebody has some explaining to do.

Was this shoddy construction? Was it rushed? Sources in my prior posts gave a few ideas- I invite you to go back and read both posts.

Minister of  Transportation Todd Stone needs to immediately release the safety inspection reports of all 219 retaining walls along the sea to sky highway, along with a full explanation as to why, on a project billed as a marvel of engineering, after only 5 years, structural repairs are needed at all.

Kiewit, the builder of this highway, has come under examination in the past for a failed retaining wall on the Lougheed highway not built to standards  – something that the minister might want to take into consideration:

They’ve also come under fire for safety violations on various projects:

I’ll keep updating this story as it develops, but tune back in tomorrow, as I bring yet another update, on yet another Kiewit built project.

The Commonsense Canadian gets to the heart of the matter on Site C approval.

There’s really not much I could add to this, Damien Gillis has wrapped this up so well – I highly recommend reading this fine post. Here are some excerpts:

” …the Liberal Government excluded the public’s independent energy watchdog, the BC Utilities Commission, from reviewing the project. The regulator was built precisely for this purpose: to examine proposed energy projects and plans based on their need and value to taxpayers and ratepayers. ”

“… the Liberal government set the rules for the review process, then broke them as soon as they became inconvenient.”

“At first, Site C was to power BC’s homes, but when we became a solid net exporter of power in recent years – according to BC Stats – the rationale morphed into powering energy-intensive LNG projects. But BC Hydro undermined that statement during the JRP hearings, saying it was instead to export excess power to California – likely a money-losing proposition for BC.

Then, just last week, Christy Clark went back on her LNG argument, admitting that Site C was notin fact required for that industry. ”

*Read the rest of this post, HERE:

My only addition would be to ask these two questions that I put forth yesterday, online:

Why is it that the province has the money for a project toppling the $8 billion mark, when mayors have been forced to propose an increase in the provincial sales tax in order to fund transit improvements?   ( meanwhile seismic upgrades to schools haven’t been completed, it was pointed out) 


Considering it has been accepted that temporary foreign workers would need to be used in part to build any LNG projects in the province, who exactly is going to be filling the alleged 10,000 jobs the premier has promoted this project would provide? 

Sea to Sky retaining wall questions continue as ministry employee emails indicate Kiewit inspected their own work.

With ongoing rainstorms and occasional flooding that has hit many areas on the north shore recently, water drainage and erosion is a concern to many. This of course jogged my memory to look for an update on a story I broke earlier this year.

On April 30th, I posted a story with photos that illustrated  many visible concerns  and defects of several retaining walls along the Sea to Sky Highway in West Vancouver/Lions Bay area.

Among them, bulging walls, block movement, blocked drains and more. Before you continue, I suggest a quick look back to get yourself up to speed on this, or refresh your memory:

The ministries response at that time to the defects identified in the photos was they had done their own inspection,the issue was cosmetic and did not affect the structural integrity of the walls.

However, further photos taken more recently continued to show outward bulges in the walls-something recognized by both government and industry as a potential indicator of stress  or deterioration that should be assessed and monitored.

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As mentioned above,in May of this year ministry officials stated that they had inspected the walls following receipt of the photos.

However,email correspondence from a Ministry of Transportation operations manager in September of this year,indicated it was actually highway builder Kiewit, that had inspected and reviewed the walls:

“I am out of town at the moment but wanted to give you a quick update.  We just received some information from Peter Keiwett regarding the walls in Horseshoe Bay.

Their investigation and review did not note any changes or concerns with the walls.

We are reviewing what was submitted.” 

I contacted the operations manager in question, “to confirm whether or not MOTH( ministry of transportation and highways) had reviewed the Kiewit inspections of the MSE( mechanically stabilized earth) retaining walls on the Sea to Sky, and what the findings were.
Has the ministry done their own inspection since the photos were taken?”

His response:

Thank you for getting in touch with me on the status of the retaining walls built as part of the Sea to Sky project.  To answer your question, Yes our team have reviewed the correspondence/documentation and walls along the Upper Levels.

 I’ll also note that the walls underwent an inspection in 2013 and another routine inspection is planned for 2018, as per the Ministry’s standard frequency of every five years for this type of structure.  There were no significant structural issues identified during the inspections.”


The operations manager has not responded to further questions clarifying the statement that ” no ‘significant’ structural issues” were identified, which seems to indicate that structural issues may have been identified but not considered to be significant in nature.

To summarize, the province initially stated the defects were all cosmetic in May. The September email from the operation manager stated Kiewit’s inspection found no changes or concerns, and now the response from that same operations manager states no ‘significant’ structural issues.

The multi-million dollar question remains: what exactly is the problem with these bulging and out of plumb retaining walls?

I question the process that allows the builder Kiewit to inspect their own work prior to a full review by provincial employees or engineers.

Kiewit was the builder of the now infamous retaining wall on Lougheed Highway that failed and finally had to be partially torn down and rebuilt after it was determined it would not meet provincial building standards.

Kiewit also made the news pertaining to a retaining wall collapse in California, in which Kiewit, a subcontractor and the project designer are all suing each other: Kiewit claims the product was defective, while the subcontractor accuses Kiewit of inadequate drainage design and installation.

And of course, who can forget the American Kiewit story that prompted the Ministry of Transportation to issue a statement of confidence in the companies involvement in many provincial projects, including the Port Mann bridge project

Pennsylvania DOT ( Department of Transportation) has a stringent guideline for examination of MSE retaining walls and cross indexing the issues shown in the photos with the following list, several indicators can be checked off:

-bulging, bowing, panel offset, visibility of backfill or geotextile fabric, variation in joint spacing,

Pennsylvania DOTstandards














The province previously assured the public the walls are safe.

The question that taxpayers should now be asking- in particular since this wall is only about 5 years old- is whether or not the flaws that have become evident were built into the wall from the very beginning.

( interesting to note here the private partner was never able to get the electronic sensing equipment installed in the highway to work properly either, as reported on page 24 of the BC auditors report , linked to on the Auditor Generals site here: and here )

The ministry representative and operation manager have not responded further to the following questions:

1) What structural issues-minor or not- have been discovered and what is the plan for remediation?

2) Are any costs involved covered by warranty  or does the province absorb the cost?

3) Who has signed off on the integrity of the wall?


Breaking news: God denies responsibility for Port Mann Bridge ice bombs, files defamation suit against Kiewit and Transportation Investment Corporation

In an ironic twist, I was in the middle of chasing down another Kiewit story when the extraordinary news broke that the  Port Mann Bridge ice bombs were an act of God.

I’m not kidding. Transportation Investment Corporation ( the crown corporation created for this specific project) and Kiewit/Flatiron partnership ( the design/build team) claimed in court documents responding to legal actions that:

“The buildup and subsequent release of ice and snow from the bridge structure was the result of a confluence of extreme environmental conditions, both unforeseen and unforeseeable to the defendants or any of them and was the inevitable result of an act of God,” the companies claimed.

“No act or omission of the defendants or any of them either caused or contributed to any injury damage, loss or expense suffered by the plaintiff.”

Time for a reality check.

1)As any long time resident of the lower mainland will tell you, despite our primarily rainy winter weather, we do still get episodes of snow, freezing rain and worst of all, sometimes a mix of the two as temperatures fluctuate. It can be a nasty wet mess of slush that breaks tree limbs and downs power lines at it’s worst.

2) The design of the Port Mann Bridge is such that the cables cross directly over the lanes of traffic below. It doesn’t take an engineering degree to figure out anything sitting on those cables is going to fall directly down to the traffic below.  In fact, these exact issues are inherent to this particular design and have been noted on other bridges around the world.

3) Documents received as a result of a Freedom of Information filed by Bob Mackin, showed that not only were engineers aware of the risks, while some believed it was a manageable, others were concerned about safety.

And as Bob goes on to report, there was another issue:

“The bridge opening was hurried along for the Premier’s photo op. The bridge was opened during B.C.’s notorious stormy season, yet it did not have its own weather station. In fact, the closest Transportation Ministry weather stations were in Abbotsford and West Vancouver.

One was finally bought for $100,000 and installed in February.
With better understanding of the conditions about to happen and as they were developing, the people that operate and maintain the Port Mann could have halted traffic earlier and avoided damage, injury and embarrassment.”

You gotta love those photo-ops.

Now, head on over to Bob’s older site and check out all the documents that he very helpfully posted on his site,that include “the lengthy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers technical report on superstructure ice protection by Charles Ryerson from April 2009”.

I’m sure the plaintiff’s lawyers will have a field day with them.. if God doesn’t first.

**scroll through them yourself, but documentation showing concerns over icefall start as early as page 5 and on, and Page 21 of the released documents is where some interesting emails come up.***

I’ll have another Kiewit/BC Government story for you shortly, along with a Surrey focus post by tomorrow, pending callbacks from local authorities.




No… this did not come from The Onion.  

But seriously…no joking now… considering the recent release of the public accounts I just blogged about... that show that under Christy Clark,Queen of LNG fantasies:

“For a government that sought re-election on the promise, blazoned on the side of the campaign bus, of a “Debt-Free B.C.,” the public accounts released this week provide a sobering reality check.

Total provincial debt as of March 31, the end of the last financial year: $60.693 billion.

Total provincial debt inherited by Christy Clark when she took the oath of office as premier in mid-March 2011: $45.154 billion.

Increase: $15.539 billion, or 34 per cent.”


So, just so I have this correct… humour me now…

The Christy Clark BC Jobs Plan is a dismal failure…

The public debt, as shown above, has grown…

And Christy Clark still wants you to invest in a responsible government???

Please tell me that I am not alone in seeing the hypocrisy in this donation request for the 2017 election… or in wondering how much support Premier Christy Clark really has among her own caucus?

… and I haven’t even started on why this is so just so, so wrong, on so many levels… least of which is the lack of attention this government has given to what really matters: Education.


Vaughn Palmer: On mega-projects, not much balance in B.C. Liberal claims of ‘on budget’

I was happy to see Vaughn Palmers column today, because his readership far exceeds mine and this story really needs to be read by all British Columbians. He also gives a tip of the hat to a December 21st blog post I did right before Christmas when the SFPR opened, to which I’ve already thanked him for.  It’s a good read, as he takes a look at how the BC Liberals claims of on budget often mean anything but.

Here is an excerpt:

“VICTORIA — When the provincial and federal governments cut the ribbon on the new $1.264-billion South Fraser Perimeter Road just before Christmas, the accompanying press release declared “SFPR opens on time and on budget.”

It was neither, according to earlier press releases from those same two governments.

Jan. 12, 2009. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and then-premier Gordon Campbell met at Fraser Surrey Docks to announce the official start of construction on a 40-kilometre, four-lane highway linking Deltaport and Tsawwassen with the Trans-Canada at the Port Mann Bridge.

The accompanying press release described it as “the $1-billion South Fraser Perimeter Road project.” In calling for bids to build the road, the provincial government had earlier announced: “Construction will begin in 2009 with completion in 2012.”

On that basis, it strikes me that it would be more accurate to say that the road was opened a year late and almost $300 million over-budget. But regular readers of this space will be familiar with the more flexible approach that the B.C. Liberals have taken toward the concept of being on time and on budget….”

Read the rest of Vaughn’s column, here:

And here is my blog post from Dec 21st – note the right before Christmas, under the radar grand opening. And Christy while Christy was no where in sight on this one, a host of other local and provincial politicians cashed in on the photo op…..


*Also coming soon:  the story of the intentional closure of New Jersey bridge lanes to create an intentional gridlock is one that’s very interesting to me, for several reasons… and the clue is right in this link…

I’ll have more on that once I pull out some information that was passed onto me by a trusted source last fall.