Coun. Ron Kerr says people are putting their lives at risk every time they walk along the narrow shoulder of winding Petersen Road and the city needs to do something about it.
He said the area poses a major safety concern that needs to be addressed now, 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.
“I’ve watched our citizens risk their lives daily on these roads and this cannot continue,” said Kerr during a council meeting Aug. 14. “Our new Master Transportation Plan has highlighted the infrastructure deficiencies in this area, but it doesn’t have to be a high-priced option to make a difference.”
Kerr wanted city staff to look into and report back on the feasibility of putting in a gravel sidewalk and bike path along Petersen and Willis roads, using the same contractor to do both the design and build of the infrastructure in order to save costs.
Coun. Claire Moglove said while she could appreciate the safety concerns, there’s no easy fix.
She said three years ago council tried to address the same issues and received a report from city staff that it would cost $1.2 million to pave the shoulders on Petersen, Willis and Cheviot roads, money the city does not have.
“The gist of that report at that time was that because Petersen and Willis roads are rural roads and because they’re fairly narrow and because they have the ditches, it is not an inexpensive matter,” Moglove said. “I don’t have a problem with staff updating that report and widening it to include the option of a bike path but we have enquired on this in the past and there does not seem to be any inexpensive way to deal with it.”
Kerr said he’s concerned with what he perceives as inaction on the part of the city.
“Three years ago this report was made and we’re still at the same point,” he said.
“I’d like to see it move along so we’re not looking at the same situation in another three years.”
Moglove countered that while she understood Kerr’s concerns, the city’s not in a position to undertake improvements that would address them.
“The reason we’re still in the same spot is the Willis road project and/or Petersen Road will cost upwards of $10 million to $15 million, depending on the extent of the work we do,” Moglove said. “You can’t just simply widen the road. There’s a culvert, there’s water, there’s ditches.”
Moglove added that council did adopt city staff’s other option in the 2009 report, which was making pedestrian connections in the area to help schoolchildren trying to get to Ripple Rock Elementary. Moglove repeated that she did not have a problem with staff coming back with another report on the extent of the work that would need to be done, but felt council was not in a position to have city staff come back with a budget request for improvements.
Kerr argued that he wasn’t asking for a lot.
“My request is for a gravel path, not a paved path, so we are not looking at the Cadillac model,” he said.
“If you spent any time driving along Willis Road and watch the citizens walking on a two-foot wide path on the very side of the roadway, you would push this up to a priority item. This is a major safety issue that we’ve let go for far too long.”
In the end, council agreed to ask city staff to come back with a report, before the end of November, outlining the costs of a gravel sidewalk and bike path along Petersen Road north to 14th Avenue and along Willis Road out to the Inland Highway.