There may yet be a way for the city to solve the historical problem of narrow traffic lanes and an inadequate walking and cycling path on Lanfear Hill.
It’s early days yet, but the city’s newly-hired engineering and public works director has received city council’s approval to explore moving the sidewalk from the edge of the slope to the other side of the road.
In what Jonathan Lambert called a “re-envisioning” of Lanfear Hill, he’s pencilled in a very tentative cost of $1-million, considerably less than the probable $10-million or more it would take for a complete reconstruction of the current configuration.
“We may realize significant improvements to pedestrian and cycling access up Lanfear Hill as well as improving the alignment of the road by abandoning the narrow sidewalk by consuming that space for a widening of the road and a realignment of the road,” he told council.
The result could be a raised sidewalk, with a guard rail, of between 2.1 metres (6 feet 11 inches) and 2.4 metres (7 feet 10 inches).
Lambert presented his idea, one he said that had the consensus backing of the city’s engineering department, to council when it met Sept. 23 as a committee of the whole to run through proposed capital expenditure projects for 2022 and beyond.
Although the city received $13-million from the province over 2019 and 2020 years for major capital expenditures, it decided instead to pursue other senior government grants for the project, a tactic that has proven unsuccessful.
A first estimate of $7-million for a Lanfear rebuild was subsequently bumped to $10-million, a project cost Lambert termed “fairly unobtainable”.
The city did set aside $150,000 for a preliminary Lanfear reconstruction design followed by another $250,000 for a detailed design with the idea the city could apply again for senior government grants in hopes of getting money for a shelf-ready project.
It’s this sum Lambert would tap for what he called a desk top geo-technical assessment.
And he suggested the cost would be in the tens of thousands of dollars to provide an indication that what he’s proposing might be possible.
In a back and forth exchange with councillor Dave Gordon, Lambert said it might even be possible to install lighting along the sidewalk as well as lighting up a rebuilt foot path up what’s called Donald Hill, the walking route that begins on the bottom left hand side of Lanfear.
Lambert’s new proposal for Lanfear was also presented as part of a broader vision for the hill, one that would include a traffic roundabout at the top of the hill taking in McConnell and Cooper at the location and for a pedestrian crossing at the bottom of the hill to better connect the Howe Creek Trail network.
In giving Lambert the green light to pursue his idea, councillors said they welcomed the idea for a new approach to a perennial problem, noting that anticipated population growth on the Bench will increase traffic pressure up and down Lanfear.
The city did tackle one urgent situation on Lanfear this year when it stabilized a section of the pathway that had begun to slip by replacing subsurface soil with a series of gabions, which are wire-work cages filled with rock.
That work cost approximately $360,000 and is calculated to have a life span of five years.
Lambert suggested gabions might also be used underneath the remaining portions of the current pathway in any conversion to become part of the road surface.
That cost, he said, could be handled as part of the city’s annual maintenance budget as opposed to being a capital expenditure project.