Transportation matters were top of mind for several participants of the May 14 Ask Salt Spring session featuring Capital Regional District director Gary Holman.
On the list of topics discussed, the Baker-Booth Canal pathway on Lower Ganges Road, sight-lines and pedestrian safety issues at Blain Road and art-inspired bus shelters all got an airing.
Members of the public have registered grave concerns about the loss of sight lines at the intersection of Lower Ganges and Baker roads as the leading issue around the pathway construction. Some people have also said high curbs installed along parts of the new pathway will make conditions more dangerous for people riding bikes on the road.
Holman noted there are mixed reactions to the project so far, and there may be legitimate safety concerns that need to be addressed. However, he pointed out the CRD’s Salt Spring Transportation Commission will have completed two major projects equalling $3 million in this electoral term and received some major grants that are important to keep.
“Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are building and getting funded for that infrastructure,” Holman said.
Ask Salt Spring coordinator Gayle Baker, who also chairs the transportation commission, reported some positive steps around the controversial project. She said a volunteer crew of three retired engineers had taken a walk with the island’s CRD engineering technician to review safety concerns. Baker also talked with Pathways Creating Pathways chair Jean Gelwicks about lessons learned and what could be done to preserve rural features in future pathway projects.
Holman reiterated that resolutions passed by the transportation commission at their last meeting will give them more information and input into pathway designs, and underline the fact that cycling safety must be considered along with pedestrian safety for those projects. Holman said the idea was a net improvement of safety overall.
“We’ve made that really clear, and I thought it was really clear,” Holman said.
The CRD is still intending to have the pathway finished in time to meet the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s extended grant deadline. Transportation commission member Peter Meyer observed caution tape that’s blocking access to the new path in a few stretches may be making things more dangerous for pedestrians who are using the open stretches and then are forced into the roadway.
Baker reported the final piece is expected to be installing railings along steep sections and the rails are expected to arrive “quite soon.”
In other discussion last Friday, Donald McLennan, a past transportation commission chair, shared some news about benches being installed on Island Pathways projects and other areas, and around his hopes for more art-inspired bus shelter projects. There have been no such projects since artist Matt Brain’s Moon Snail shelter was installed out front of Country Grocer in 2015.
The CRD has now approved a new set of guidelines around designer-build proposals but McLennan said those guidelines are fairly complex. He believes what’s needed is one successful project to pioneer the guidelines and show where problems in the process need to be ironed out. He sees much promise in an idea involving Gulf Islands Secondary School students as builders if partnered with the right designer-engineer team.
As for Island Pathways’ hand-built benches, those have been easier to introduce. A recent project saw Baker donate building materials and McLennan build a memorial bench that was installed in MoTI right-of-way near the Ganges fire hall. The Salt Spring Chamber of Commerce sponsored the MoTI permit application as an additional partner.
Baker said more projects like that could be coming soon.
“The chamber’s on board. We’re going to put a little zing into Ganges and that’s the way to do it,” she said.