Castlegar city council voted in favour of adding an additional $2.29 million to the Columbia Avenue redevelopment project in order to replace the underground water and sewer utilities and upgrade the 17th Street railroad crossing.
The project has undergone several adjustments over the two years it has been in development. Phase 1 covers Columbia Avenue from 11th Street to 17th Street. The original cost estimate was $4.822 million. The city received $3.214 million in grant funding towards the project total leaving $1.6 million for the city to pay.
During the public feedback process, the city heard that residents wanted to see bike lanes on both sides of the street, rather than on one side as the original plans called for. Consultations with ICBC showed that two bike lanes were also considered safer. At the same time, council opted to move any aerial utilities and poles to the edge of the right of way as some are located in the middle of sidewalks. Adding the extra bike lanes and moving the poles added an additional $1 million to the project bringing the total to $5.9 million.
The new additions will bring the project total to $7.1 million, with the city paying $3.9 million. The scope of the project will now include sidewalks, curbs, gutters, cycle paths, road paving, water mains, storm sewers, sanitary sewers and an upgrade to the railway crossing to bring it up to new standards including lights, controls and crossing arms.
The project budget includes a $1.06 million contingency fund and city staff are pursuing additional grants to potentially bring the price tag down further. That included a Transport Canada grant to cover 80 per cent of the railroad crossing costs.
The city and CP Rail have jointly submitted the grant application. The city has, however, included the full amount of the cost of the project budget to be on the safe side in case the grant application is unsuccessful.
“From the last open house, the only change is the infrastructure,” explained Castlegar CAO Chris Barlow in an interview. He explained that in the last two years since the initial project was designed, the city received another grant from the province that enabled them to create an asset management plan.
Barlow says that as the pipes are nearing the end of their life cycle and taking into consideration climate change pressures and future development along Columbia Avenue that now is the best time to replace the infrastructure while the road will already be torn up.
Most of the city councillors agreed with Barlow, but Coun. Bruno Tassone was quick to declare that he would be voting against the project.
Tassone would like to wait longer before making a decision and rework the project for more cost savings.
“I’m not going to vote to spend another $3 million without going back to the public to discuss this,” he said.
Coun. Arry Dhillon was the first to speak in favour of the project.
He pointed out that a big portion of the increase was for the additional bike lane that was requested by residents. He also added that even though it is more expensive now, he feels it is a better use of money in the long run.