City officials are hoping third time’s the charm in providing a safer and more secure way for pedestrians and cyclists to make their way up and down from the Bench to the main part of town.
Council gave its blessing last week to an application for a grant it hopes will cover the majority of the costs of building a 266-step, 100-metre staircase connecting lower and upper Eby St.
The uncovered stairs would be made of aluminum with serrated treads providing a better grip for year-round use. A channel, called a rail, would be installed right beside the stairs to more easily maneuver bicycles up and down.
Better access to and from the Bench was identified in 2009 in a city-commissioned transportation report with Eby being one location identified as conducive to a staircase.
“Existing access is via either an unmaintained dirt trail or steep, narrow arterial roads that lack sufficient cycling and walking facilities,” city development services director David Block wrote in a memo to council outlining the need for the staircase.
Two previous applications for senior government grants were rejected — one in 2012 to the federal program which provides gas tax rebates to municipalities and the other just last year when the staircase project was included in a larger grant request for $9 million to rebuild Lanfear Hill.
This time the city is applying to a federal-provincial program designed to provide grants to rural and northern communities.
The estimated cost of the project is $721,451 with the city being required to cover 10 per cent of that amount. That would come from money the city has tucked away from previous multi-million dollar grants received from the province in 2019 and again this year.
In addition to the Eby St. staircase potential, the 2009 transportation report also recommended a staircase, with a bike channel, at the foot of Thomas St. Both staircases should also be lit for better nighttime use, the report indicated.
“We recognized that there would be value in constructing stairs at both the Eby St and Thomas St locations. However, the Eby location had designs already completed due to previous funding applications, which was a requirement for this most recent grant application,” noted city planner Tara Irwin.
“Both could use stairs and we would consider adding a second set of stairs at Thomas St. in the future.”
The 2009 study also called for a raised crosswalk and appropriate signage at the base of the Lanfear Hill to alert motorists to pedestrians and cyclists crossing the road to use the Howe Creek Trail system.
”In the long-term install a pedestrian and cyclist activated crossing light at this location,” its authors added.