The City of Terrace is pushing for approval of a federal and provincial grant worth $10 million to improve transportation access and safety to the Bench area from downtown.
If approved, the city would pay 10 per cent of the project, or $1 million, with the remaining $9 million portion coming from a federal-provincial Rural and Northern Communities program.
“It’s an excellent opportunity,” said director of public works Rob Schibli to council Jan. 14. “Transportation projects are one of [the program’s] priority initiatives and we’re hoping to be successful on the grant.”
The program supports cost-sharing grants for infrastructure projects in local governments with populations under 25,000.
The city says the project would provide “critical access improvements” for all modes of transportation along Lanfear Dr., which turns into Thomas St. leading up to Uplands Elementary. It would be the city’s largest infrastructure project to date.
A majority of the funds would be used to widen Lanfear Dr. to 10 metres to accommodate new traffic, bike lanes and pedestrian sidewalks.
With increased traffic from industrial development projects in the region, including LNG Canada’s development in Kitimat and the build-out of the Skeena Industrial Development Park, safety and accessibility of the Bench area to the rest of the city is the key focus of the project, the city says.
“With this spike in activity, the City of Terrace recognizes the need for immediate infrastructure upgrades and is proactively seeking out funding opportunities to ensure residents are provided with safe, reliable transportation corridors throughout the city,” wrote city communications advisor Karisa Petho in an email to the Terrace Standard.
Reconstruction of Lanfear Hill was a high-priority item in the city’s 2017 Master Transportation Plan, which surveyed residents and looked at how the city could accommodate the potential for 50 per cent population growth in Terrace over the next 10 years.
“The narrow, windy geometry on these roads is a problem for larger vehicles, including buses, and traffic speeds are a concern,” the transportation plan reads.
The road has been a topic of discussion and debate as more than 200 homes are expected to be built on the Bench area over the next couple years.
In a 2015 draft report to the Union of B.C. Municipalities, the city identified the Bench area as “the only area where we have room to grow,” further stating that “Lanfear Hill in its current state will be challenged to handle significant additional traffic.”
The 2017 transportation study estimates population on the Bench will grow by 84 per cent between 2015-2025, from 3,154 residents to 5,810 residents by 2025.
Consultants say 40 per cent of new traffic generated in the northwest corner of the city would be along Lanfear Dr., with 80 per cent of drivers on the bench travelling into the downtown for employment, services and shopping.
Lanfear Dr. is also the only road consultants identified as not having “sufficient capacity” to accommodate higher traffic volumes by 2025.
“In any case, this analysis underscores the importance of improvements on Lanfear Drive to ensure the road has the necessary width and geometry to safely accommodate the future peak hour traffic demand,” the study reads.
“The improvements on Lanfear Drive may be considered a higher priority than improvements to Skeenaview Drive due to the higher demand, and the more challenging geometry.”
The road has also been an issue for cyclists in the city, including students on the bench who bike to school. Last May, a Skeena Middle School project for Bike to School week identified Lanfear Dr. as a place where students felt unsafe cycling because of the lack of bike lanes, high traffic volumes and speed limits.
Other works within the scope of the project include an upgrade to the intersection of Thomas St. and McConnell Ave. at the top of Lanfear Hill and the offset T-intersection with Cooper Dr. to address heavy commuter volumes and predicted traffic delays.
New bike lanes and sidewalks along Lanfear Dr., traffic control near Pheasant St. and Thomas St., and construction of staircases to the Bench from the foot of Eby St. as well as the foot of Thomas St. are also included.
Without the grant, the proposed works will not be able to be completed in the current five-year financial plan, according to a recommendation letter submitted to council from Schibli.
The city’s current five-year provisional budget plan allocates $400,000 for preliminary design work, which includes a $150,000 concept study and design of Lanfear Hill slated for 2020 and $250,000 for a geotechnical study and detailed design between 2022-2023.
If the city’s application is approved, another $600,000 will need to be transferred from the Capital Works Reserve Fund and possibly other reserves to fill out the city’s 10 per cent portion.
The grant application was submitted Jan. 23 and the city expects it will take another six weeks to receive a decision.