News

Errant Hydro poles creating hazard

The route Maria Olsen normally takes from the daycare she runs on 16th Avenue to a nearby park has been blocked since November by a pair of utility poles installed right into the sidewalk on Cumberland Street. Busy traffic and vehicles parked along the curb, as well as an uneven lawn next to the sidewalk make it difficult for her to manouver strollers past the blockage. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
The route Maria Olsen normally takes from the daycare she runs on 16th Avenue to a nearby park has been blocked since November by a pair of utility poles installed right into the sidewalk on Cumberland Street. Busy traffic and vehicles parked along the curb, as well as an uneven lawn next to the sidewalk make it difficult for her to manouver strollers past the blockage.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

It's been at least three months but it still annoys Maria Olsen every time she sees it.

Since mid-November the Burnaby resident has had to deal with BC Hydro poles blocking the sidewalk in her neighbourhood.

A new pole has been installed on the east side of Cumberland Street at 15th Avenue, but the old deteriorated pole is attached to it, blocking the way for pedestrians.

It's particularly annoying for Olsen, who owns Kidz Zone daycare a block away. She and her staff regularly take their charges, aged one and two years old, to a nearby playground in strollers. But whenever they arrive at this spot in the sidewalk, it's too difficult to push the strollers onto the adjacent boulevard and too dangerous to go onto the road out into traffic.

So they often just turn around and go back.

Their other options are to go out of their way or to use a back alley, all to avoid the pole.

Olsen noted George Derby Care Centre is nearby, and it could pose an obstacle for people being pushed in wheelchairs. And even when she's on her own, an ankle injury has her reluctant to walk on uneven ground such as the grassy boulevard.

She called Burnaby city hall in early January and was told Telus would be notified to move its wiring to the new pole, but nothing's changed. She noted that even when the old pole is removed, the new one is still taking up space on the sidewalk.

"Every time I look at it I think oh no, it's still here, I forgot again to go the other way."

Leif Bjorseth, City of Burnaby's development services engineer, explained that when BC Hydro replaces its poles, it's supposed to coordinate with Telus and Shaw to have them transfer their cable connections from the old poles onto the new ones so the aging ones can be taken away.

But while it's supposed to happen in a timely manner, often that's not the case.

Bjorseth said the city deals with such complaints a couple times a year. It has since contacted Telus to rectify the issue.

BC Hydro spokesperson Simi Heer acknowledged the situation is "not ideal at all" and said Telus and Shaw have been contacted "to see how we can expedite the process."

The utility is currently replacing 10,000 such poles provincewide, she said. The pole in question was installed in the same spot as its predecessor, which was put in place in 1957.

It's possible the sidewalks were installed afterwards, which would explain why it intruded on the sidewalk even before this incident, Heer said. As for why the old pole couldn't be braced onto the new one so as not to block the sidewalk, she said the location of the wiring infrastructure necessitated its current position.

Transferring infrastructure and removing the old pole can typically take several weeks, but usually the poles are located in less inconvenient places, such as back lanes, Heer said, adding "it seems that this has taken longer than usual.

"We try to do these things in a more coordinated way to minimize the impact on customers."

wchow@burnabynewsleader.com

twitter.com/WandaChow

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