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Council approves $400,000 lighting budget for Grand Trunk Pathway extension

Council is dipping into a special account so that lighting can be part of the project to extend the Grand Trunk Pathway from its current end beside Hwy16 at Frank St. to the Kalum River Bridge.
The Grand Trunk Pathway now ends at the Frank St. intersection with Hwy16 but will now extend westward to the Kalum River Bridge on the other side of Hwy16. (File photo)

Council is dipping into a special account so that lighting can be part of the project to extend the Grand Trunk Pathway from its current end beside Hwy16 at Frank St. to the Kalum River Bridge.

The one bid that did come in for the extension was $387,000 over the project budget 0f $1.042 million, leaving council with a number of options ranging from abandoning lighting altogether to just running electrical conduit and installing light pole bases so that lighting could be added later on.

Development services director David Block told council May 25 that one option would be to just run electrical conduit and installing bases for light poles itself so that lighting could be added later on.

But leaving lighting out completely and then deciding to install it later on could be more costly because of the trenching for electrical conduit that would be required across the pathway, he said.

Eliminating lighting altogether would bring the project in at $108,000 under budget, Block added.

In the end, council decided it would not be cheaper in the future to add lighting and that illumination added a safety factor to pathway users.

“I’m impatient to get this project done and get it all done at once,” said councillor Brian Downie during council discussion.

“If we don’t light it now, it won’t be lit for a very, very long time,” said councillor James Cordeiro in adding that not lighting the pathway now would lead to council regret later on.

Council members did concede that one section of the existing Grand Trunk Pathway, which was built in sections over a number of years, is already unlit from Kenney St. west to Frank St.

“[But] because we have one dark piece we shouldn’t have another dark piece,” said councillor Sean Bujtas who moved the motion to add $387,000 for lighting for the project.

Mayor Carol Leclerc also drew attention to the unlit portion from Kenney St. to Frank St.

“And for the safety perspective as a woman, if I was able to walk the entire portion [of the trail] I would go up on the highway rather than go down in front of Canadian Tire where it’s unlit in the evening,” she said.

“But most of that, the rest of the trail, I’d feel fairly safe, riding my bike, walking.”

Leclerc also said a lit trail to the Kalum River Bridge would make it that much more safer for Kitsumkalum members who would use it to come into and leave the city.

Councillor Lynn Christensen seconded the motion put forward by Bujtas and it passed with councillors Brian Downie and Evan Ramsay adding their support.

The lone dissenter was councillor Dave Gordon who although saying he advocated for a lit trail to the Kalum River Bridge, he questioned the expense.

Gordon noted that while $387,000 was needed so that lighting could be included, leaving lighting out completely would mean a project that would be built for $108,000 under the budgeted amount. That left him concluding the actual cost of the lighting was $500,000.

Gordon also framed his remarks in noting there are lights already on BC Hydro poles that run along the route where the trail will be built. He wondered if it might be possible to add more lights on those poles.

“I’m really struggling with the cost of $500,000 and wondering if it could go somewhere with much more value to the city,” he said.

He suggested a portion of the money could instead be used to add landscaping and other features to the trail to increase its attractiveness to motorists.

The money is coming from a special account made up of a major grant provided by the province in 2019 and 2020 for capital projects or planning for capital projects. Going into the May 25 meeting, there was $3.239 million left in the account.

Leclerc reminded council that the grant has given the city the money and flexibility and ability to consider improvements such as lights on trails.

“It would be an absolute no brainer. There’d be no lights down there,” she said.

This last section of the Grand Trunk Pathway will run parallel to Hwy16 adjacent to the west bound lane.

The existing trail runs parallel to the highway adjacent to the eastbound lane but the proximity to the CN rail line does not make it feasible to continue it on that side of the highway.