Pathway funding deadline extended

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Salt Spring residents will hopefully not lose $490,000 in grant funding toward a complicated section of pathway on Lower Ganges Road thanks to a deadline extension negotiated between the Capital Regional District and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI). 

Construction work on the pathway from Baker Road to Booth Canal Road is now well underway. Salt Spring CRD engineer Allen Xu reported last Monday the ministry had extended the pathway’s completion deadline from the end of March to the end of June. As he told the Salt Spring Transportation Commission, that should leave plenty of time to complete the work.

“I think there’s very little risk of the project not being completed by June 30th,” Xu said, adding most of it will be done by sometime in early May.

Some delays were incurred at the start of the project due to dangerous trees that were identified as needing to be removed for workers’ safety, plus winter weather. The only parts that will need some extra time after the bulk is finished are installing fencing and concrete block retaining walls in a few stretches. 

Xu said the commission may need to increase the total project budget, currently set at $700,000. Efforts to protect some “precious trees” through hand-excavating and hydro-vac soil removal around the roots of one arbutus tree have added to costs. Xu said the contractors have also encountered some utility lines that are very close to the southern terminus, so design modifications will be needed.

Money has been saved by reducing the pathway structure depth in some places to avoid removing more trees, which also reduced excavation costs and gravel fill. However, Xu said the $40,000 project contingency is being used up quickly.

The transportation commission will not find it hard to make up the shortfall, as CRD electoral area director Gary Holman pointed out, since the North Ganges Transportation Plan has come in under budget. Final invoices have not been reconciled, but Xu said he expects there to be close to $300,000 left over. 

Holman thanked CRD staff for their oversight and for coming under budget so significantly.

“It’s quite stunning, actually,” he commented. 

The transportation commission passed several motions at the Feb. 22 meeting to help guide future pathway work. Two motions that direct staff to create policies on tree cutting and rural pathway standards aim to avoid the controversy that arose out of the current work on Lower Ganges Road. 

CRD senior manager Karla Campbell pointed out staff are already working on the first item. Commissioner Gary Lehman reported he and his fellow Island Pathways member Philip Grange are developing a checklist of features that can be considered to meet a “rural” pathway definition. They will share the checklist with CRD staff to help inform the draft policy. 

The commission additionally passed a resolution regarding its pathway proposal on Ganges Hill, which is to take place in conjunction with a MoTI repaving project on Fulford-Ganges Road. 

MoTI area manager Don Legault told the commission last month there probably would not be room for the pedestrian pathway planned for the uphill side of the road because the road and paved shoulder will take up most of the available space. In some cases the ministry will need to acquire property and move utility poles to achieve a consistent road right-of-way of 25 metres.

The commission has asked staff to negotiate with MoTI to include paving of the ditch and underground drainage in its project design to make pathway work more efficient and cost-effective.

Xu said he believed that might be possible.

“If they agree, I think that would be the best possible option for us,” he said.

Xu himself will not be around for the eventual pathway construction. It was announced at the meeting he will be leaving his position near the end of March for a move to the Lower Mainland. The CRD’s engineering technologist for Salt Spring will manage projects until the senior engineering position is filled. 

The commission also gave a fond thanks and farewell to Tracey Shaver, a long-time administrator with the local CRD office who recently took a new position at Greenwoods Eldercare. 

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