Fourth Street elevator is coming along – slowly

The long-awaited elevator at Westminster Pier Park is slowly but surely inching closer to completion.

The Fourth Street pedestrian overpass into Pier Park opened in March, but the elevator has yet to open. The contractor, along with the engineering and elevator firms, have been working on a solution to address outstanding issues and will soon be presenting the city with a timeline for its expected completion.

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“They are just working on timing now,” said Keith Whitely, a project manager with the city. “Everything is in, it’s just that there is some finishing they have to finish off. The biggest issue is the door frames – adjusting the door frames for a width issue. There is nothing structural. It’s not unsafe. It’s more a finishing of it that we didn’t like, and they are having to fix up.”

The pedestrian overpass takes people from Columbia Street (at Fourth Street) over Front Street and the railway tracks into Westminster Pier Park. The elevator will ensure the park is accessible to everyone.

Mayor Jonathan Cote is anxious for the elevator to become operational.

“It is getting closer, the issues are being resolved,” he said. “Certainly, I am frustrated with the delays that have occurred. The elevator was supposed to open back in May, and we are already almost through the summer and it is still not operational.”

A number of things have contributed to the delays in the opening of the elevator, Cote said.

“There was a back-ordered part – there was a significant delay in that coming in. Even once it arrived there was some coordination issues between the general contractor and the supplier, and some electrical issues that needed to be resolved. My understanding is all of those issues are very close to being resolved,” he said. “There is still a bit more work that needs to happen, plus the B.C. Safety Authority does need to give a signoff for the elevator. I’ve gone past the point where I’d be prepared to put a date out there when we expect it to be open because I think the community is getting a little frustrated with dates and us not meeting those.”

Whitely said it’s more complicated to install an elevator at the location than one would expect.

“It is because it is an open-air system. It’s not like you are working inside a building itself with structures around,” he told the Record. “And we did change the size of the elevator after we started also – to increase the size of it. We wanted a bigger elevator. They’ve got glass doors on it so you can actually see outside the elevator. We changed that to make it safer.”

Until the pedestrian overpass opened, people could only access Westminster Pier Park via the parking lot next to the park and River Market. The project will be complete once the elevator is operational.

“Once it is, I think it will certainly make the pedestrian overpass that much more useful,” Cote said. “From an access point of view, it will makes sure that everyone will be able to have access to the park. I know myself, I have been carrying bikes and strollers up those stairs all summer long. Even for people with young families, I think it will be seen as a huge benefit there.”

Cote, a downtown resident, said it’s been great to see how well used the pedestrian crossing has become since it opened in the spring.

“It is really connecting our downtown neighbourhood to our waterfront, particularly the eastern half of the downtown. I see people on it all the time going back and forth. It’s really become one of the main access points to tht,” he said. “It’s been great for Westminster Pier Park. I have noticed it actually being a lot busier this year. I think the improved access, along with some of the improved amenities, is the reason why.”

Whitely said the project is still on budget because the delays or revisions done to the elevator aren’t at the city’s expense.

In January 2014, the city awarded a $2.5 million contact to B7B Heavy Civil Construction Ltd. for the overpass.

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