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Council still considering pedestrian bridge across Courtenay River

The City of Courtenay could commit $100,000 towards the proposed cycling/pedestrian bridge downtown.
A staff report presented at Monday's council meeting recommended making a provision in the 2012 capital budget for an initial $70,000 for survey, design, geotechnical, environmental and archeological work. Another $30,000 would be spent during the construction phase of the project.
The report also states that the 2012 to 2016 drafted financial plan would have to be amended because the project is not included, and other prioritized capital projects would need to be deferred.
Councillors had not seen the drafted budget yet, so didn't know which projects would be deferred to move the cycling/pedestrian bridge forward.
Coun. Ronna-Rae Leonard pointed out that choosing what to defer would be the obvious "sticking point," but said she supports this project.
"I'm looking at the opportunities there and I see that it doesn't look like an insurmountable task," said Leonard. "We have the community works funds that we could access without having to impact the overall budget. And I'm just so keen that this project has so much life to it and so many possibilities."
The report notes that the best spot for the covered bridge would be from Sixth Street over to Simms Millennium Park, and would provide a "critical link to the river walkway."
It would have to be 180 feet long in this location, making it the longest covered wooden timber frame bridge for cyclist/pedestrian use in Western Canada.
The Courtenay River People Bridge Steering Committee came to council March 5 and chair Harry Holland said the project has seen plenty of support. He noted the project is at the stage where designs need to be drawn up to move forward.
He said the majority of the roughly estimated $1 to $1.5 million for the bridge is expected to come from federal and provincial funding. He added that Comox Valley MLA Don McRae and Vancouver Island North MP John Duncan have shown interest in the project.
The City staff report lists the estimated cost at $2 million total.
At the March 5 meeting, Coun. Manno Theos expressed concern that government funding would not be forthcoming, and added to his point again on Monday.
"My concern is we're putting off other priority projects for something that may not happen, and we can address this (project) again next year," Theos said.
Coun. Jon Ambler asked staff if the information gained by spending $70,000 on planning and surveys this year would still be useful later if rest of the project was put on hold due to lack of funding. City director of operational services Kevin Lagan said the knowledge gained would carry into the future, and said the money would be "reasonably well spent."
Coun. Doug Hillian suggested using some money from traffic fine revenues or gaming revenues and noted the idea for the bridge would be good for the downtown area.
Coun. Bill Anglin, who is council liason to the Downtown Courtenay Business Improvement Association, was at the group's meeting a couple of weeks ago when the DCBIA made the decision to endorse the bridge steering committee.
Anglin said the bridge was discussed as a way to improve the economic viability of the downtown core at the meeting, but not in depth.
He said he didn't have a problem supporting the initial spending but was uncomfortable without knowing which capital project(s) would be cut in the 2012 budget in order to do so.
City director of financial services Tillie Manthey suggested postponing discussion of the matter until the 2012 draft budget comes before council at the Strategic Planning Session next week.
She also suggested staff do more research on where the money could come from, including gaming revenues, traffic fine revenues, the community works fund and gas tax revenues.
Discussion was postponed.
writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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