The cost of Victoria’s cycling network has nearly doubled from original estimates.
On Thursday, City staff asked council for nearly $3 million more in funding in the 2018 budget to complete the first phase of dedicated bike lanes, which includes Pandora Avenue and corridors on Fort, Wharf, Humboldt and Cook streets.
The cost to complete the Fort, Wharf and Humboldt street lanes is now $7.7 million, bringing the total cost of the entire network up to $14.4 million.
Sitting as committee of the whole, council voted 5-3 in favor of including the increase. There had previously been $4.86 million available for the project, partially funded by the gas tax.
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In 2016, council was given an estimate of $7.75 million for the entire network, but since then, the scope of the project and costs have grown, according to City staff. The increases relate to contractor costs and the cost of improvements made by suggestions from the public. Those amenities include: improvements to pedestrian space, signal upgrades, on-street parking, loading zone treatments, as well as street enhancements.
Councillors were given options that included continuing with the phase 1 lanes, deferring some routes or portions of routes, and “de-scoping” the improvements. Reducing the scope of the project would lower costs and the shorten the duration, but it would also reduce cyclist safety and quality of the public space, council heard.
Mayor Lisa Helps said now was not the time to stop the process. She said the intention was always to build a bicycle network, not just one set of lanes.
“The public hasn’t understood that we were setting out to build a network, in the same way when cars were invented, the city paved all the roads. They didn’t say they will pave sections and leave the rest dirt,” she said.
“I strongly, urgently feel that we cannot stop phase one.”
Coun. Marianne Alto voiced concern over the increased costs, but thinks a delay could cost more. She supported continuing the network, which she said would encourage people to shift their mode of transportation.
“You have to do a significant enough amount of work in order for people to buy into it,” she said. “We have to do at least this much, or else there isn’t enough to evaluate whether the community will go this way.”
Coun. Chris Coleman, however, said perhaps the City needed to give people time to adjust to the lanes that have already been built.
“Sometimes we need to slow down, and let the public catch up and understand, and we need to be better at explaining,” he said. “I don’t want to put off the whole notion of the full cycling network, but we have to make sure the public is on board.”
So far, there have been an average of 40,000 trips per month on the Pandora lanes since they were completed in May. Fort Street lane construction started in September, and construction on the 800, 900 and 1000 blocks are almost complete. There is a halt on some construction activity until after the holidays, and work on 700, 600 and 500 blocks is scheduled to continue early next year.