British Columbia

Vancouver business owners, residents concerned over closure of East 1st Avenue

Due to gas-line construction, East 1st between Nanaimo Street and Clark Drive is closed in both directions until Aug. 31 — and that has people looking for new routes to work, home, or their favourite shops and restaurants.

Gas line construction has busy road closed from Nanaimo Street to Clark Drive until end of August

Traffic is backed up on East 1st Avenue in Vancouver as FortisBC replaces a 60-year-old natural gas line under the road. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

FortisBC is asking for the patience of people living, working and travelling along Vancouver's East 1st Avenue as it closes a busy stretch of the thoroughfare for gas line construction. 

The road is now closed in both directions from Nanaimo Street to Clark Drive until Aug. 31.

Partial lane closures from Rupert Street to Nanaimo Street had already been in place since late April, but now that part of that road is fully closed, some business owners and residents in the area are upset. 

"What this does is it adds to all the traffic issues we already have in Grandview-Woodland, and it exacerbates them," said area resident, Schula Leonard.

Leonard says there has been a spike in traffic through neighbourhoods as people cut through side streets. 

"No one following their GPS cares about a sign that says 'local traffic only,' not really," Leonard said.

FortisBC says it will advise the public about traffic impacts around the project through signage, radio broadcasts, email updates, social media and public information sessions. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

FortisBC says it does not want drivers cutting though side streets, and is working with the City of Vancouver to mitigate the issue. 

"One of the ways we're doing that is by putting local-traffic-only signage in the area, and speed-reader boards. And we're also working with the Vancouver Police Department and the City of Vancouver to have people out enforcing the rules of the road," said Grace Pickell of FortisBC. 

FortisBC says a full closure of the avenue was necessary so that their crews could have a wide enough workspace to work safely, while also minimizing construction time.

The work will replace part of a 60-year-old natural-gas line that runs 20 kilometres from Vancouver to Coquitlam, B.C.

Sales slowdown

While the east-west artery is closed in both directions, major routes that traverse it, including Commercial Drive, Clark Drive and Nanaimo Street, will stay open. However, some businesses owners have already noticed a sales slowdown. 

Artem Voropaev, owner of Pacific Laptop at East 1st and Nanaimo, says he's worried about losing business as construction drives potential customers to other computer shops downtown that aren't affected by road closures.

"I hope for the best, but it's going to be even worse because it affected our business even with the partial closures," he said.

"I was trying to tell all my customers in advance that we're going to be open during the construction. Maybe I will spend a little bit more money on an advertisement on Google just to bring in more customers during the time."

Supporting local businesses

To support local businesses, FortisBC says it is promoting them on its website and social media accounts. 

"We are working one-on-one with businesses who are impacted by the project ... ensuring that their deliveries are maintained and that there is still access to the businesses," said Pickell. 

FortisBC has been holding pop-up coffee chats in the community so that people can voice their concerns. The next meeting is at Cassia Bake Shop, at East 1st and Commercial, on July 5 at 5 p.m. PT.

Traffic and construction information is available at talkingenergy.ca.

With files from The Early Edition and On The Coast

About the Author

Cory Correia

Video Journalist

Send tips or comments to cory.correia@cbc.ca and follow along on Twitter @corycorreia

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