Cost of pedestrian overpass likely to rise

Sidney town councillor Steve Price says he’s OK spending more on a safe, good-looking crossing

Sidney’s proposed new pedestrian overpass of Highway 17 is going to cost more after town council sought designs that improve on the looks of existing facilities around the community.

Steve Price, the Sidney town councillor who has made the crossing one of his top priorities during his time on council, says whether the project costs the original $2.2 million or $3.5 million, it’s worth the money to increase safety at the highway.

The province has committed $1 million to the project.

The Victoria Airport Authority has thrown in $100,000 and ICBC has come up with a contribution as well. The Town of Sidney’s share — the remaining two-thirds cost of the project — will come out of the municipality’s accumulated gas tax account. Price said that means residents and businesses in Sidney will not face a tax increase to pay for the overpass.

Should its cost go up, however, he said the Town will have to find additional sources of funding.

“We don’t want to borrow for this,” he said, “and you cannot borrow against future gas tax revenues, so we’ll need to seek out additional funding sources.”

Price said a draft engineering plan for the overpass is about half-complete, featuring five different configurations or scenarios. Each has its own cost associated with it.

Sidney and the province shared the cost of the $200,000 report, which could come before council at its August 11 meeting for review.

Price said the structure will be built to last 75 to 100 years and be designed to fit in with the Ministry of Transportation’s long-term plans for the highway at Beacon and Bevan avenues. Whether any part of those plans go ahead soon — or 40 years from now — Price said the overpass will be in the right place.

Asked whether recently-announced plans for commercial development on 10 acres of land west of the highway — commonly called the gateway project — would impact the need for the overpass, Price said it would not. He said the level crossings at Highway 17 and Beacon Avenue would likely be eliminated, with pedestrian traffic routed to the overpass.

“This thing is going in,” said Price, adding it has been a council priority for the last two terms.

“We’ve had a great concern for the people living in West Sidney. We’ve had a different philosophy (than previous councils). This council, we want to look after people’s safety.”

The proposed pedestrian overpass would be built north of Beacon avenue. One side is on province-owned land near the McDonald’s restaurant courtyard, the other is municipal land on the opposite side of the highway.