Scott Maxwell of the Ministry of Transportation made the presentation to Council. He presented three options for upgrades which would see affected area changed to either a four lane street with curbs and gutters, a four lane street with an open ditch or a three lane open ditch proposal with the third lane being used to make turning off of 100 Avenue easier.
The options were broken down into two areas: improving 100 Avenue from 86 Street to 79 Street [East Bypass] and from 79 Street to the Swanson Lumber Road. After examination of the upgrade options and the two groups Maxwell admitted that the costs came in higher than anticipated. For the four lane curb and gutter the cost would be $10,500,000 for improving 86 Street to 79 Street and an additional $26,700,000 for enhancing 79 Street to the Swanson Lumber Road. The costs for the four lane open ditch proposal saw figures of $5,600,000 and $16,700,000 and the three lane open ditch option came in at $4,800,000 and $14,300,000 respectively for the two areas.
Mayor Lori Ackermanl expressed Council’s desire for adding traffic lights at the 100 Avenue 79 Street intersection with a four lane curb and gutter with a walking trail beside it for workers in the area based on feedback from workers in the area. Maxwell admits it will be a long process and doesn’t have a firm timeline should the City officially decide on the four lane curb and gutter option.
“Right now it’s all about priorities. Of course in the Peace Region there is a lot of stuff. This is a challenging project because it isn’t on a numbered route and because of the dollars we’re looking at,” he explains. “When we’re looking at especially the four lane curb and gutter that’s comparable to what it would take to build the remaining phase of the South Taylor Hill. I would suggest in our current capital program it’s a long ways out. I don’t have a defined timeline.”
Despite the uncertainty Maxwell did offer some good news regarding a soon to be released program that may benefit the potential project.
“One of the things that is coming up and we don’t know all of the details of it, we’re still in the beginning phase, the Government of Canada has come out with a new Build Canada funding. This project could be a very good candidate for that system,” he says. “That could be one that would accelerate this project where transportation funding at 100 per cent is going to be a very challenging funding business case for me to make. If there was federal government or other sources of revenue or other sources of money to come and help build this would certainly expediate this.”
Under the Build Canada program funding for projects would be split into thirds between the federal, provincial and municipal levels. Maxwell says the project does not need to be done all at once and can be paid for and built in phases.
“This project in general doesn’t need to be done all at once either. It’s obviously a big ticket item. To do what we suggested we suggested, the four lane curb and gutter and the four lane open ditch we’re looking at about $26,000,000 but if we were to say do that in $10,000,000 instalments it could be certainly more doable in the short term and I think Build Canada could be a good fit for that.”
He added that traffic lights could be added to 100 Avenue and 79 Street if it was done based on the current structure of the intersection and not the potential four lane improvement within a year or two.
Mayor Lori Ackerman says the Build Canada program is something that should be explored by the City and the Ministry and expressed her hope that given the amount of money the Fort St. John area has provided in resources to the Province that hopefully the Province wouldn’t mind giving a small portion of that back for the project.
“I think when you take a look at four lane curb and gutter all the way out to the roundabout and when you and I talked last it was going to be in three sections: It would be 86 Street to the East Bypass, East Bypass to the railway, and the railway to the roundabout. If there’s an opportunity to bring all three levels of government in to have this conversation, look at breaking it up a little more and doing it right the first time I just think that’s what we should be aiming for,” she emphasized. “I recognize the Ministry may feel this is a huge chunk of change. The last ten years, what have we provided, over $17,000,000,000 in resource revenues to this province? So we’ll just ask for a sliver of that back to do that right the first time.”
City staff will now work further on a solution that would see traffic lights added with the four lane curb and gutter improvement to 100 Avenue. Further discussion will also take place with the Ministry of Transportation as the land is within their jurisdiction.