Commuter vehicle access to and from Zero Avenue between the 264 Street "diversion" and Highway 13 will be closed as of Monday, July 28, when the first phase of the $17.7 million redevelopment of the Aldergrove border crossing begins.
Once the road work is done, south-bound traffic headed for the U.S. will be temporarily moved into the lanes on the west side of the duty-free store. Barricades and a gate will be placed at the east end of Zero Avenue to allow access for construction crews as well as for farmers requiring access across Highway 13 during the construction project, which is expected to be complete in February of 2016.
Once completed, there will be four south-bound lanes on the west side of the new Canada customs building, with the two western-most lanes dedicated for commercial trucks and Nexus vehicles.
North-bound traffic from the U.S. will also be redirected to temporary customs booths at the west side of the existing customs building. This will enable work on several acres of land on the east side acquired for expansion of customs services for commercial trucks, inspection of recreational vehicles as well as five passenger vehicle inspection lanes, with room to expand to eight lanes in future.
Zero Avenue on the east side of Highway 13 will also be realigned and moved to the north side of the customs property.
This expansion is on the site of a greenhouse and old farm house, and is also the site of the infamous smuggler's tunnel across the border to an old farm house on the U.S. side. Law enforcement officers on both sides of the border surreptitiously monitored the would-be smugglers as they dug the tunnel, and swooped in eight years ago to catch the smugglers in the act of their first drug run through the tunnel.
The drug tunnel was filled with concrete and the property was seized as proceeds of crime under civil forfeiture legislation.
Several dozen people turned out for the information meeting hosted by the Canada Border Services Agency Wednesday at an Aldergrove meeting hall.
Sean Averill, senior project manager with the CBSA, said the project has been six years in the making, with land acquisition, budget allocation, First Nation consultation and design work finally coming to fruition.
The construction contract was recently tendered to the Lark Group and the work begins this week.
Averill said that all of the roadwork up to about the 200-block of Highway 13 is the responsibility of the CBSA, and improvements on, and widening of, Highway 13 north of this would be up to the provincial highways ministry.
He said that the highways ministry is considering building a new access from Highway 13 to the west side of Zero Avenue, via a proposed 3B Avenue, due to concerns about sight lines at the 264 Street "diversion".
If this new 3B Avenue is built, access to Zero Avenue from the border crossing would be permanently closed. If not, the previously existing access to Zero Avenue would be re-opened in 2016 when the CBSA work is complete. The highways ministry has not made any commitments or set timelines yet so this aspect is uncertain.
Averill said he has been consulting farmers who have concerns about access across Highway 13 during the construction work and has made commitments to accommodate them.
"We created the problem for them so we have to. We will put a gate there for farm equipment to come through," Averill told The Star.
Concept plans for the new Canada Border Services Agency facilities at the Aldergrove border crossing. -CBSA image