Past and present members of Township council showed up to officially begin burying the overhead power lines in Fort Langley’s central business area last month.
Bev Dornan, Steve Ferguson and Grant Ward lost their seats in the last municipal elections, but they were on council when the project was approved.
The former councillors joined mayor Jack Froese and councillors Charlie Fox and Angie Quaale for the sod-turning ceremony April 29 on Glover Road along with Eric Woodward, the president of the Fort Langley Business Improvement Association (BIA), municipal staff and representatives from BC Hydro, Pedre Contractors Ltd. and Binnie and Associates Consultants.
The $3 million project was approved by council in 2012 following a 51.5 per cent vote in favour by property owners representing 53.4 per cent of the assessed property values within the Local Area Service (LAS) region covered by the petition.
Of the 33 properties in the LAS, Woodward owned 12.
He and the owners of five other commercial properties supported the petition.
Three of the 33 were owned by the Township and were excluded from the vote.
At the sod-turning, Woodward called the overhead lines “super ugly” and said it was “finally time for them to go.
“If you Google the best historic streets within North America, the one thing you will not see is power lines,” Woodward said.
There have been critics of the project, some of them Fort Langley property owners who complain they are being unfairly forced to pay for it because of a system that allows someone who owns multiple taxable properties, like Woodward, to vote multiple times.
One opponent sent a email to the mayor and council calling the overhead lines “heritage telephone poles” that should be preserved as “a special reminder of the past.”
Woodward said moving the lines underground will bring many improvements to the streets, including allowing trees to grow without being trimmed back from overhead power lines, better street lighting at Christmas, as well as more banner mounts and hanging planters.
Mayor Froese made the same points during his remarks at the sod-turning, saying moving the wires underground “will eliminate the clutter and distractions and make it easier to experience the beauty of Fort Langley’s buildings and scenery.”
“The project will also be a huge benefit to the historic trees in the area, especially those along the east side of Glover Road,” Froese added.
Utility poles and overhead wires will be removed along Glover from south of 96 Avenue to the Jacob Haldi Bridge, and on Mavis Avenue from McBride Street to River Road.
Traffic in the construction zone will be reduced to single-lane alternating throughout the project, with work taking place between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.
If all goes according to schedule, the overhead lines will start coming down in mid-August, when the different utility companies start relocating power, phone and cable lines to the underground conduits.
Construction will not be scheduled during special events in Fort Langley, including Canada Day on July 1, the Prospera Valley GranFondo on July 19, the Ride into History on July 24 and 25, and BC Day on Aug. 3.
For more information, visit tol.ca/fortutility.