Nanaimo budget talks delay intersection fix

NANAIMO – City plans to hold a budget meeting Monday (March 30).

Nanaimo’s budget process has put the brakes on a provincial funding announcement to address one of the top crash intersections on Vancouver Island, according to Mayor Bill McKay.

McKay said Todd Stone, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure, was prepared to announce safety improvements for the three-way intersection at the Old Island Highway, Boundary Avenue and Northfield Road last week as part of a joint-initiative with the City of Nanaimo. But the municipality hasn’t yet approved its share of the project expenses in this year’s budget and upgrades can’t get started until that happens.

Intersection improvements were put on hold in 2014 as the city searched for ways to cover a funding shortfall for the site, named the third-highest crash intersection on the Island by ICBC in 2013. Originally the city and province agreed to split the estimated $2-million bill, but designs showed costs would likely soar $900,000 above that amount, thanks to the railroad crossing, scope of the storm system, earthworks and paving. ICBC indicated it would chip in $95,000 and the city asked for time to investigate potential rail crossing grants and an increased share from the province.

There’s been no word from the province about whether it will bump up project dollars, but in an e-mail to the News Bulletin the transportation ministry said it’s committed to undertaking the project and is working with the City of Nanaimo on a cost-sharing agreement.

McKay said the fear is the province could redistribute money for the project, despite assurances otherwise, adding it’s time for council to get on with the budget and “get it done.”

Coun. Wendy Pratt also heard the provincial government would have made an announcement had the city passed its budget, but doesn’t believe that means the province will not do so.

“It means we don’t have the budget for that particular task yet,” she said. “I believe the budget will be passed and it will be fine.”

Council asked for city staff to reduce the budget to a one-per cent tax increase, but subsequently defeated the financial plan bylaw in February and directed staff to hold a one-day session to prioritize draft budget items.

The meeting will be held Monday (March 30).

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