Mayor Carol Leclerc wants to know why it’s taking so long for the city to hear about a grant application it has made to pay for the majority of the cost to rebuild the road up Lanfear Hill to the Bench.
It’s now been over a year since the city said it would put $1 million into the proposed $10 million project while applying to a federal-provincial program for the remaining $9 million.
Lanfear Hill features in the city’s 2017 Master Transportation Plan as a key traffic project in recognition of a growing population on the Bench. The expenditure would be the largest single project in the city’s history.
The application deadline was Jan. 2019 and the city had been expecting to hear back by last spring, only to be told the federal election of last fall temporarily halted consideration of which local governments in B.C. would be successful for a piece of the $95 million that went into the Rural and Northern Communities Program.
While it’s not unusual for government programs to be idled during an election period, Leclerc said it’s way past time for decisions to be made.
“The [October 2019] federal election is well behind us, so we don’t understand what is stalling the federal government from releasing the funds to the province,” she said last week of the program, which is financed by both federal and provincial monies.
A website providing information on the program is silent as to what is happening, except for a short notice stating “final decisions are anticipated in late 2019/early 2020.”
The attraction for cities the size of Terrace is that the Rural and Northern Communities Program would have the federal and provincial governments supply 90 per cent of the money for the project, reducing a local government’s portion to 10 per cent.
“For us, getting this project done for 10 cents on the dollar of taxpayer money is huge, so if we are successful with the grant, we would like to get going on this project as soon as possible,” she said.
“Ensuring the safety of pedestrians and cyclists using this route is a significant factor and that would be a key part of the rebuild.”
Leclerc said the city has pressed the issue with cabinet ministers, senior civil servants, in a phone call last month to provincial municipal affairs minister Selina Robinson, and recently, in a letter to Premier John Horgan.
The city would come up with its $1 million from what hasn’t been committed so far of a $8.19 million grant for capital spending and planning it received from the province in February 2019.
It has already committed $150,000 of that $1 million for a concept study and design for the Lanfear Hill project.
“The narrow, windy geometry on these roads is a problem for larger vehicles, including buses, and traffic speeds are a concern,” the 2017 master transportation plan stated about Lanfear Hill and Kalum Hill, with Lanfear listed as a priority.
In broad terms, the plan sets out a vision to widen Lanfear to 10 metres for better traffic flow and enough width for bicycle traffic and a pedestrian sidewalk.
“As the population grows, traffic is expected to increase significantly on these roads, especially Lanfear Drive,” the plan’s authors wrote.
“In the absence of any alternative routes, these roads must be widened and upgraded. A 10-metre paved road width with an adjacent sidewalk would satisfy the safety requirements for traffic, pedestrians and cyclists, and would help accommodate the expected traffic demand.”