Raphael Lopoukhine. North Shore News. North Vancouver, B.C.: Aug 6, 2006. pg. 1.Front

WV construction noise a beeping pain

Residents near West Vancouver's Eagleridge Bluffs say they're faced with sleep deprivation and jangled nerves as the construction of the sea-to-sky highway continues into its fourth week of early morning construction, leaving the District of West Vancouver helpless in the face of strong-armed provincial law and a contractor balking at requests for noise reduction.

"It starts about 5:30 in the morning and you hear the beep beep beep (of the) trucks going back and forth. It's a very noisy performance," said Edward Byrd, a resident of Summit Avenue, who lives down the hill from construction site.

His neighbour Jeff Peterson filed a similar complaint with the District of West Vancouver council, which has received about 10 complaints. Coun. Bill Soprovich brought up Peterson's complaint at the district's most recent council meeting July 27.

"I know that construction has to be done," said Soprovich. But he questioned why the highways construction crews weren't giving more consideration to their neighbours.

"I don't want to hear because they are the province," said Soprovich.

But Director of Engineering and Transportation Emil Barth said West Vancouver might be out of luck because of a provincial law exempting major projects from local bylaws.

The noise complaints are just the latest controversy to beset the provincial highway project.

When construction started on the Sea-to-Sky Highway Improvement Project at the end of May, crews were already starting early and ending late because earlier protests against the overland route through Eagleridge Bluffs had delayed the entire project. Then fire season hit and starting a month ago, the contractor Peter Kiewit and Sons was forced by safety regulations to start even earlier. The early morning work schedule will be lifted when the rains come and the ban on working later in the day is lifted, said Larry McHale, supervisor of forestry, trails and wildfires for the District of West Vancouver.

Meanwhile, Coun. Rod Day proposed easing up on the back-up beeping noises from trucks by having them softened or started later. "The machine noise -- that beeping -- is probably the most annoying thing," said Day.

District staff said they have already brought up the issue of the back-up beeps with the contractor. They were told the company had applied to WorkSafe B.C., the provincial safety regulator, for a reprieve of the regulation and that "WorkSafe turned them down," said District of West Vancouver spokeswoman Patricia Leslie.

But WorkSafe B.C. spokeswoman Donna Freeman said there was only ever an informal discussion between the contractor's safety inspector, Mike Cooper, and WorkSafe B.C. safety inspector Al Chalmers about using strobe lights instead of beeps.

A ministry of transportation employee close to the project said there had been extensive informal communication between Chalmers and Cooper and Cooper was given the impression that the variance would not be approved.

But Freeman said the change wouldn't be considered by WorkSafe B.C. unless the contractor filed a formal application for a variance. That didn't happen, she said.