To build a bridge or not to build a bridge?
That was just one of a few questions posed by the City of Nanaimo during an open house regarding road access to the south downtown waterfront lands on Wednesday night.
Held at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, the open house showed off four road access proposals to the south downtown waterfront area, a patch of recently acquired city land south of Front Street and Esplanade. The city plans to begin construction next year on a new roadway dubbed the Front Street extension, which will see Front Street extend to Port Way through the newly acquired land, and is looking for public feedback on their proposals, three of which propose a new two-lane bridge with bike lanes.
The first proposal involves demolishing the current Port Way trestle, which crosses over the railway tracks and connects to Esplanade, and replacing it with a more modern bridge at a cost of $8.4 million. It is the cheapest of the bridge proposals, limits impact on existing rail operations but fails to resolve the ‘cul de sac’ issue with the area, according to documents provided by the city at the open house.
Dubbed the Milton Street overpass, the second proposal calls for the construction two-lane bridge beginning at Milton Street and ending at Port Way for cost of $17.4 million. Milton Street would loop northbound connecting to Port Way over land that was once the home of Western Forest Products. The city suggests that this option could provide a direct connection to the port authority’s assembly wharf, is on a truck route and limits impact on existing rail operations. However, construction of the overpass requires retaining walls that would impact the surrounding homes on Milton Street. The city notes that the eastern side of the overpass would be close to a former mine shaft.
The third and most expensive proposal is called the Farquhar Street overpass. It follows a similar pathway as the Milton overpass , with the main difference being that Farquhar Street would extend over the train tracks and onto land owned by Canadian Pacific Railway, Snuneymuxw First Nations and the port authority. The proposal includes an extension of Port Way to Farquhar Street as well as a new set of traffic lights at Nicol and Farquhar streets. The city estimates this proposal, if selected, to cost $19.4 million. Although the pros and cons, according to city documents, are similar to the second proposal, the Farquhar overpass would maximize the amount of land that could be developed along Port Way.
The final proposal calls for the Farquhar Street to Port Way via an at-grade crossing that doesn’t involve a bridge and comes with an estimated price tag of $5 million. It would require a new signalized rail crossing and Farquhar Street would need to be redesigned to some degree according to city documents.
Jolyon Brown, a Nanaimo resident who was at the open house, said he liked that the city is going ahead with the Front Street extension project and preferred the Milton Street overpass proposal.
“I think it is the most direct access to the cruise ship terminal … Milton Street is a more developed street right now for access down to the cruise ship terminal, whereas Farquhar Street isn’t as developed.”
The city is encouraging residents to submit their feedback on the four proposals by completing a survey before Nov. 26 as city staff intends to come to council with a proposal by the end of the year. To participate in the survey and for more information, please visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RTFMJHF or https://www.nanaimo.ca/your-government/projects/projects-detail/wellcox-access-study.