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Councillor won’t let go of Petersen improvements

Coun. Ron Kerr is insistent the city address safety concerns on Willis and Petersen roads but city staff says there’s no money for improvements.

Kerr said, “citizens risk their lives daily” walking along the narrow shoulders of both roadways.

“It’d be comical if it weren’t so dangerous,” Kerr said at a council meeting Oct. 2. “I walked the route the other day and although there’s some spots where there’s separation from the traffic, there’s numerous locations where you’re forced to walk on the road. To do nothing to improve the safety concerns in north Campbell River is not an option.”

Kerr wants the city to install a continuous pedestrian and cycling path along Willis Road and on Petersen Road between Willis and 14th Avenue before winter sets in rather than wait for a re-build of Willis and Petersen roads – a project that has been on the city’s radar but pending available funding.

“When the weather turns, the conditions only get worse,” Kerr said. “What I’d like to see is the process started immediately. There’s a situation there that is far too dangerous to extend into the winter season. If we could get started on it right away, within this year’s budget, and then the more expensive areas for next year’s budget.”

But city staff said the project would be costly, although it did not include a figure in its report to council.

“The current financial plan does not contain funding for improvements along either Willis Road or Petersen in 2012,” said Drew Hadfield, the city’s transportation manager. “Continuous safe pedestrian and cycling routes along the Willis and Petersen Road corridors are impractical without significant investment. Both roadways contain bottlenecks where simple or inexpensive options do not exist (to widen the walkway).”

There are also ditches which would need to be replaced with a piped storm water system before they could be filled, leveled and used for a pedestrian and cycling path.

Coun. Claire Moglove said she could not support a project with so many unknowns.

“We don’t know how much it will cost,” she said. “It might be 100,000 it might be 500,000, it might be a million, it might be two million, it might be three million – I have no idea. I can’t possibly support a motion to get started on something I have no idea whatsoever it might cost.”

But Kerr said it didn’t have to be the “Cadillac model” and the city could go ahead with improvements on Willis and Petersen using a cheaper method.

“They could be serviced with blue chip crushed rock in the short-term and paved as finances improve, we need some creative solutions,” he said.

Coun. Mary Storry stepped in and suggested the issue be put off until council’s Strategic Planning sessions, scheduled for this Thursday to Friday.

“This certainly appears to be an item that’s very important to Councillor Ron Kerr and to members of the community,” Storry said. “What I’d like to suggest is we defer this item to the Strategic Planning session and Councillor Kerr could bring it forward at that time.”

Items that council identifies as a priority will drive the budget.

In the end council voted to defer Petersen and Willis Road improvements to the Strategic Planning sessions. Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations, said city staff would report back to council with a cost estimate.

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