Downtown darkness comes to light

Aging infrastructure in the downtown core is causing costs for a complete overhaul of the downtown street light system to skyrocket.

A consultant hired by the city found it will cost roughly $2.2 million to upgrade street lights from the entrance to the pier all the way to Roberts Reach (beside McDonald’s) and along sections of 10th Avenue and 13th Avenue.

That figure is based on keeping the existing light fixtures where possible, reusing street lights that have recently been replaced and relocating or adding extra lights to brighten up the streets.

All of the lights would be upgraded to the more energy efficient LED bulb and all underground wiring and electrical services would be upgraded where needed, said Ron Neufeld, city general manager of operations, in a report to council.

But the condition of the downtown’s old underground infrastructure is driving up the cost of the project.

“A challenge in delivering this solution is the overall condition of the city’s downtown infrastructure,” Neufeld said. “Sewer and water mains are aged and require upgrading; the storm system is in poor condition and has capacity issues; the sidewalk surfaces are in need of repair or replacement and are being impacted by tree roots. Street roots are impacting not only city infrastructure, but private property as well.”

In light of those issues, city staff recommended council hold off on a complete reconstruction.

“It’s really important, in order to achieve maximum efficiencies, to deal with all of those issues as one rather than dealing with one piece of infrastructure independent of the others,” Neufeld said.

However, at its meeting last week council voted to consider, during 2013 budget planning, adding up to 15 new light standards downtown to improve lighting along Shoppers Row and Pier Street as an interim solution.

Mayor Walter Jakeway expressed his concern with the lack of lighting downtown back in August and urged council to address the situation before the dark days of winter set in.

“Last winter we had a lot of lights go out and I don’t think we want to go into winter with that kind of lighting,” Jakeway said. “It’s pretty dark in some spots. It’s bordering on dangerous.”

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