The city will apply for federal funding to help improve pedestrian and cycling infrastructure near Thompson Rivers University.
However, in making that decision on Tuesday, council made it clear that, should the funding be rejected, financial considerations for the project — including how much of the bill should be covered by the university — should come back to council.
“My sense is that council really wants to revisit the issue of the overpass, if we’re going to be into it in the 50-50 range,” Mayor Ken Christian said. “I think the general consensus was that, if this is 20-cent dollars, we’re all in and we’re interested in doing it.”
On Tuesday, council voted unanimously in favour (Coun. Denis Walsh was absent) of applying for $9.6 million worth of federal active transportation grant funds to fund 60 per cent of $16 million worth of proposed improvements, including: a $10-million Summit Drive overpass and $6-million multi-use pathway that would adjoin to the overpass along Summit Drive, from McGill Road to Fernie Road.
TRU would pay $2 million and the city would pay $4.4 million.
Council heard the city has a memorandum of understanding with the university to split costs of the overpass. The city is applying for $6 million in federal funding for the overpass, with TRU and the city each proposed to be on the hook for $2 million. TRU was not, however, asked to fund the multi-use path.
Coun. Bill Sarai questioned what happens if the federal funding does not get approved. He said university staff, faculty and students stand to benefit the most and he said he doesn’t think Kamloops residents would be comfortable footing a large bill. He questioned whether a resident from Westsyde would use the Summit Drive pedestrian and cycling overpass and said that if the federal funding is denied the university should fund 80 per cent. He also questioned need for an overpass, suggesting instead a fence could be placed down the middle of Summit Drive — similar to one installed on Tranquille Road to prevent NorKam students from jaywalking along the busy North Kamloops street. The fence along Summit Drive would force students to walk to an existing crosswalk at Summit Drive and McGill Road.
Coun. Mike O’Reilly further added the overpass would connect two provincial properties, with the university having purchased 704 College Heights.
The city’s CAO, David Trawin, explained that Thompson Rivers University has been identified in the city’s transportation master plan as a linkage for future cycling routes to Dufferin, Aberdeen and Pineview.
The city’s transportation engineer, Purvez Irani, said a fence will be installed for safety reasons as part of the separated multi-use pathway along Summit Drive. However, he said forcing pedestrian traffic to the nearby intersection would result in making an intersection that sees 866 pedestrians per day busier, with up to 1,400 pedestrians per day, leading to its own set of safety issues. Sarai further suggested the intersection at Guerin Creek could be utilized.
Councillors Sadie Hunter (who previously worked at TRU) and Arjun Singh said the university is part of the community.
Coun. Kathy Sinclair said connecting the university with the city’s active transportation network is long overdue. She said suggestion the infrastructure would only be utilized by Thompson Rivers University is not true and pointed to the area as a cycling commuter route linking to the Tournament Capital Centre and downtown. She called the existing route “deadly.”
“We’re unable to bike on the sidewalk and cycling on those streets is just not safe,” she said.
While council voted in favour of applying for the federal funding, it severed and voted down part of the motion, which stated the projects would be funded by the city regardless of whether the federal funding was approved or not. Council voted six to two to defeat that motion, with Mayor Christian and councillors Bass, Dudy, Hunter, O’Reilly and Sarai opposed and councillors Sinclair and Singh in favour.