Steve Price says the Town of Sidney is tired of waiting for a new pedestrian overpass of Highway 17 and has made an agreement with the province to fund an engineering report for an estimated $200,000.
It’s a small step forward on a plan to increase pedestrian safety that was first considered in 1965 when the provincial and federal governments split the town in two with the highway and airport runway expansion. Price, a town councillor, said they hope to convince the federal government to contribute one-third of the cost of the engineering report — and the construction project itself, which has been estimated to run between $2.2 and $2.4 million.
“Last year, we got a $1 million commitment by the province,” Price said. “It’s not the whole cost (of the overpass) but it’s better than nothing at all.”
Price said the town has had concerns over pedestrian safety ever since the highway was put in, effectively putting heavy traffic between one side of the community and the other.
“We can’t leave it any longer,” Price said. “We have concerns with kids and workers in west Sidney crossing the highway. It is a provincial responsibility and they are stepping up for a part of it.”
The engineering report will, he continued, get the project to a point of being shovel-ready — or ready for construction. Price said he hopes the cost won’t be as high as the initial estimates, adding the town will speak with their federal government contacts to put the pressure on for more support.
The province has committed to investing $1 million in the project. The cost of the engineering report would come out of that money as well as the Town’s coffers.
Mayor Larry Cross said he is taking that funding commitment as the province’s promise to help pay for the pedestrian overpass. Cross added Sidney is ready to pay its share when the time comes to build the walkway, adding they hope to tap into federal grants to help keep the cost low.
The proposed location for the overpass would be close to Beacon Avenue. Land on both sides of the highway in the proposed location is owned by the province, Price said, helping facilitate the project. The Town, Price added, is already doing what it can to increase safety at Beacon Avenue and the highway — including putting in a pedestrian crossing area on Beacon where it meets the Flight Path, a recently-completed walkway around the airport.
While the engineering report is in the works, no timeline has been set for actual overpass construction. Price said the Town, province and hopefully Ottawa, still have to iron out details on financing the project.