The Ross Street underpass: Arguments for a ‘yes’ vote

Both viewpoints are being provided leading up to the city’s referendum question on Oct. 20

In addition to electing their municipal representatives, school trustees and regional district representatives, citizens of Salmon Arm will be voting on a referendum in the civic election set for Saturday, Oct. 20 across B.C.

They will be asked to vote yes or no on the following question: “Are you in favour of council for the City of Salmon Arm adopting Loan Authorization Bylaw No. 4500, which would authorize the City of Salmon Arm to borrow $5,300,000 for the purpose of constructing the Ross Street Underpass and related works.”

In order to publicize the arguments pro and con the underpass bylaw, the Observer is running two columns, this one containing arguments in favour of borrowing for the underpass, the other against the borrowing plan.

Both were given the same word limit.

The link to the ‘vote no to underpass’ column is: here

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Submitted by the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society board of directors

The Ross Street Underpass project has been planned for Salmon Arm for decades and now our community has the opportunity to move this project forward and start realizing its benefits. Many alternatives have been reviewed by engineers over the years and an underpass at the Ross Street location has been identified as the optimal strategy for ensuring the safe and uninterrupted flow of pedestrian, bicycle and vehicle traffic between our downtown core and our waterfront.

The Salmon Arm Economic Development Society (SAEDS) directors voted unanimously in favour of the Ross Street Underpass project. Board members cited improved safety, the importance of continued investment in our public infrastructure, the comparative costs of not proceeding, and the potential for business/tourism growth as the primary considerations for supporting this project. Below is a summary of the factors considered in determining support.

Related: 2014 – CP pledges $1 million to underpass

Safety: The current level crossing at Marine Park presents a public safety risk. There is potential for a catastrophic accident as well as delayed access for emergency response vehicles. The community continues to see increasing challenges with access to the waterfront with an average of 32 trains coming through Salmon Arm daily in 2017. The number of trains rose 25 per cent from 2015 to 2017 with an expectation of continued growth. The city’s Grade Crossing Assessment Report (2017) prepared by Associated Engineering determined there is an average of 4,700 vehicles crossing Salmon Arm’s level crossings daily. Safety is the primary consideration of the Ross Street Underpass project and this cannot be understated.

Cost to residents: There will be no property tax increase to residents as a result of this project proceeding. Approximately 60 per cent of the project’s total estimated cost of $12,483,000 has already been secured through grants, CP commitments and reserve funds. The remaining $5.3 million will be raised through long-term borrowing. However, it’s very important to note that the repayment of this debt will result in zero increase in property taxes due to the coinciding retirement of the Shaw Centre debt.

Cost of not proceeding: If the project does not proceed, there are several risk factors and costs the city will have to incur, including potential closure of Marine Park Drive and changes to traffic patterns, costly changes including signalization, increase in insurance and ongoing maintenance costs at existing crossings. There is also an obligation to complete fencing and a pedestrian overpass at 17 Street NE. These costs are estimated to exceed $4 million dollars and will still not offer unobstructed access to our waterfront.

Related: Salmon Arm council puts brakes on intersection changes

Importance for ongoing infrastructure investment: This capital infrastructure project not only includes the underpass construction, it also includes improvements to the storm water system to address the issues previously faced in this area regarding standing water. Ongoing investment in Salmon Arm’s infrastructure is imperative to our economic growth. The city has indicated that when this project moves forward, it will not prevent or delay other planned capital projects from proceeding, including Hudson Avenue revitalization, the tennis club facility, downtown parkade construction, West Bay connector trail, SASCU Recreation Centre, track and field complex and others. Those projects are independent of each other, being planned for and budgeted for separately, and should not be drawn into decision making related to this project.

SAEDS is encouraging all residents to take the time to inform themselves with factual information preceding this important referendum for our community. The city has done an excellent job of hosting community outreach sessions and compiling detailed, yet easy-to-understand information, which is available on their website at www.salmonarm.ca. The benefits this project will provide Salmon Arm far outweigh the costs. Vote yes to the Ross Street Underpass on Oct. 20.

– Submitted by the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society board of directors

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The proposed site of the Ross Street underpass. (File photo)

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