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City of Nanaimo shortens planned Albert Street bike lanes as costs rise

Additional $400,000 for ‘major road reconstruction’ will come from reserves
The Albert Street bike lane project has been reduced in scope and will now include just the section of Albert between Pine and Milton streets. (News Bulletin file photo)

Increased costs will result in shorter-than-planned bike lanes along Albert Street.

At a special finance and audit meeting last week, Nanaimo city councillors voted unanimously to spend an extra $400,000 from reserves and reduce the scale of the project.

A year ago, council prioritized $1.3-million bike lanes on Albert Street between Pine and Dunsmuir streets. However, city staff reported this month that the $2.4-million project budget – which also includes $900,000 for watermain upgrades and $200,000 for Cat Stream culvert replacement – is not sufficient to complete the section of bike lanes from Pine to Kennedy Street, let alone the section from Kennedy to Dunsmuir. The staff report notes that costs are related to “major road reconstruction” and mentions that road widening, a retaining wall, lighting upgrades and sidewalk construction are required.

Poul Rosen, the city’s director of engineering, said a reduced project scope will still include improvements to the S-curve section of Albert Street close to Pine Street.

“Given the horizontal alignment changes as well as the narrowness of the road, it tends to be the most challenging for cyclists,” Rosen said. “So enhancing that provides the most value.”

Staff recommended spending the $400,000 and ending the project at Milton Street, but also presented an option to spend $800,000 to complete the project as originally intended and eliminate either 30 or 58 on-street parking spaces.

Coun. Ben Geselbracht moved that the city spend more to achieve “full completion” of the Albert Street bike lanes project.

“We’ve spoken a lot about completing this minimum grid and this is one of the major connectors from VIU to the downtown…” he said. “I think if we’re going to do it, we might as well do it right.”

Among the councillors speaking in opposition were Coun. Jim Turley, who said it was his understanding that future underground servicing work would require part of the project to be dug up, and Coun. Ian Thorpe, who said the cycle lane was a project for “basically one per cent of the population.”

“I think we’ve done a lot to accommodate that one per cent and I am happy to continue to accommodate them … but not through the option that’s on the table which seriously impacts parking in that area and that’s something that can’t be under-valued,” Thorpe said.

Councillors voted against Geselbracht’s motion 6-3, with Mayor Leonard Krog and councillors Turley, Thorpe, Erin Hemmens, Zeni Maartman and Sheryl Armstrong opposed.

Hemmens moved staff’s recommendation to reduce the scale of the project, saying it wasn’t the best option, but was the right option. She said Albert Street’s comparatively lighter traffic and easier grade make it a cycle route regardless.

“Just because we don’t put in the infrastructure doesn’t mean people still can’t ride their bikes on it…” she said. “This is a section of road that people can travel on their bikes and then they will connect into infrastructure when it gets to that really tricky S-curve.”

The $400,000 will come from the city’s strategic infrastructure reserve and will not impact property taxes in 2022. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2022.

RELATED: City of Nanaimo budgets for new $1.3-million bike lane on Albert Street

RELATED: Nanaimo city council takes second look at $1.3-million bike lane, but votes for it again

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About the Author: Greg Sakaki

I have been in the community newspaper business for two decades, all of those years with Black Press Media.
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