Comox-Helmcken Greenway Section 1 approved, construction cost $5.6 million

Comox-Helmcken-Greenway-route alignment, Dec 2-12City Council on December 12, 2012, approved construction of Section 1 of the Comox-Helmcken Greenway, a two-kilometer route through the heart of the West End at a stated cost of $5.46 million.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012 (9:30am) – Standing Committee of Council on Planning, Transportation and Environment. Download the report here: http://former.vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/cclerk/20121212/documents/ptec3.pdf

WEN notes: The Comox-Helmcken Greenway is being a fast-tracked before the completion of the West End Community Planning Process. We note the budget, $5,460,000.

Promotion of walking, cycling and “active transportation” is generally a good thing. This Greenway is part of a longer-term plan started years ago by the Non-Partisan Association and being implemented now by Vision Vancouver. In street conversations and surveys with many residents, West End Neighbours rarely came across voices saying that this Greenway was an urgent task to satisfy community needs, though it is part of a wider city-wide policy.

The public will observe how the new greenway functions once built. There will be positives and negatives. Meanwhile, it appears the City has only limited funds to cover the costs of the West End community plan process that is now under way, and is unable to find the funds to mail all residents to notify them that the process is actually under way, or to mail the draft of the 20-year community plan in 2013 in an attempt to actually gauge public support for it.

Taxpayers citywide should examine the costs of this Greenway.

Comox-Helmcken-Greenway-p9 of Dec2012 staff report

The City report only counts these expenses and lost revenues from the Comox Greenway in one year — 2013 — but what happens over the next 19 years? The total budget for construction was not known to the public until last week. Operating costs and lost revenues are estimated by staff at $320,000 per year. People need to ask about the priority, cost, and timing of this project. Our quick calculation suggests that the total operating expenses would be $6.4 million over 20 years – assuming no inflation. This shortfall will have to be covered by other civic revenues. Taxpayers should ask, is this Comox-Helmcken Greenway a good deal for the public? Should it be given the priority the current Council majority has given it?

Once built, West End residents should also watch for impacts on local traffic, including increased traffic on nearby lanes and streets. Will there be more traffic on nearby routes from drivers trying to navigate their way around the one-way sections of road? There will also be concerns about congestion of heavy equipment and cumulative community impacts of constructing the Comox-Helmcken Greenway at the same time as a 22-storey tower is slated to start work at 1401 Comox (address recently changed to 1061 Broughton). During the Council meeting, when questioned on this, City staff said they would do their best to communicate with the community.

As a side note, a serious two-car accident occurred last week at the Comox and Nicola intersection, apparently as a result of City equipment blocking view of the stop sign on Comox.

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