When property tax bills arrive this week, one chunk will be the $396,250 we pay for the “transportation” service through the Capital Regional District.
In the fall of 2014, Salt Spring voters approved by referendum a $250,000 increase in the requisition to be paid between 2015 and 2018 for transportation (not transit) services. The referendum wording was broad enough that the $1 million collected over four years could be spent on any number of pedestrian safety improvements in the Ganges area, but the referendum campaign emphasized a portion of Rainbow Road and Lower Ganges Road as the priority areas.
Almost four years later, the results of that exercise are clear. While a bit of work has occurred, the bulk of the money has not been spent. Federal gas-tax funds have also been added to the pot.
The latest roadblock to significant progress is the Capital Regional District’s realization — just before getting ready to go to tender — that part of the project goes through a well-documented Coast Salish village site. As a result, a provincial government permit must be obtained before proceeding. That should have been flagged well before this point, notes the CRD’s new engineer for Salt Spring, Chris Davidson.
At its most recent meeting, Salt Spring Island Transportation Commission members expressed concern that if the public sees the CRD still has a couple of million dollars in the bank for the Rainbow/Lower Ganges road projects that it will not approve further taxpayer support for future projects. That concern is valid, as the public should not be expected to pony up $250,000 each year for projects that may never occur, or those that are not completed efficiently.
With the Rainbow/Lower Ganges Road project delayed, the SSITC has directed staff to redirect some attention to Ganges Hill and spend some of the referendum funds on a design concept, at least. While we understand the SSITC’s frustration at seeing its signature project stalled, the solution is not to spend money on different projects that may also never be completed. Before more funds are requisitioned from taxpayers, the CRD needs to prove it can complete a project with money it already has in the bank.