Askew’s Foods’ Claire Askew is concerned that due to budgetary constraints, pedestrian-friendly elements presented in early artist renderings of the Ross Street underpass may be sacrificed when the project is built due to budget constraints. (City of Salmon Arm image)

Askew’s Foods’ Claire Askew is concerned that due to budgetary constraints, pedestrian-friendly elements presented in early artist renderings of the Ross Street underpass may be sacrificed when the project is built due to budget constraints. (City of Salmon Arm image)

Salmon Arm businesses stress need for pedestrian-friendly Ross Street underpass

Concerns raised that walkability elements of underpass will be sacrificed due to budget constraints

Pedestrians and cyclists remain key considerations for the construction of the Ross Street underpass which is expected to go to tender this month.

“Pedestrian traffic, bicycle traffic and vehicular traffic are totally important in that project…,” said Salmon Arm Mayor Alan Harrison. “That’s the whole reason for building the underpass, to ensure those three modes of transport don’t have to go across the railway tracks to get to the waterfront.”

Harrison’s assurances were in response to concerns raised by two downtown business owners who are worried pedestrian-friendly elements of the underpass, such as were presented to the public in past artist renderings, may be sacrificed for budgetary reasons.

In June 2020, Salmon Arm council amended the city’s 2020 to 2024 financial plan to reflect a 28 per cent increase to the project cost, from $12.4 million to $16 million.

“As I’ve been watching the budget increase, I’ve been becoming increasingly concerned about whether or not the walkability that needs to be included in the design will actually make it into the design…,” commented Askew’s Foods Claire Askew. In December, Claire, Askew’s Foods owner David Askew, and Adam Meikle shared their concerns and thoughts about the underpass project with Harrison.

Read more: Projected cost of Salmon Arm’s Ross Street underpass goes up by $3.5 million

Read more: ELECTION 2018: Majority of voters give the nod to underpass spending

“When I’ve been asking about different design elements related to walkability, typically what I’ve been hearing is the big issue is the budget,” said Claire. “And for me, what I find really worrisome about that is they really did pitch the underpass, prior to the referendum, as a key piece of walkability infrastructure.”

She outlined the pedestrian-friendly potential of the underpass in a slide-show presentation. In addition to maintaining earlier design elements, including intricate lighting on the ceiling of the underpass, the presentation supports exploring an integrated active transportation corridor along Lakeshore Drive, and further collaboration and consultation with local stakeholders, including the Shuswap Cycling Club and the local arts community, to ensure local values are considered and reflected in the underpass’ design.

Harrison said improvements not included in the current design, such as additional greenery and art, may be considered for the underpass, but after the project is completed.

“Things like that, the public and the council will consider those once we have the actual transportation route built,” said Harrison.

“The tender package, as you can imagine for that project, is hundreds and hundreds of pages long, most of it very technical… There’s not going to be big deviations from the tender and the plan that’s been presented – what the people of Salmon Arm have seen, that’s what’s going to be built.”

Regarding the tender, Harrison said six companies have been pre-qualified to bid.

“So we know it’s going to be a competitive tender and it’s a great time to be going to tender as far as that kind of construction goes,” said Harrison.

“Like any project, whether you’re going to build a house or whatever, you’re hopeful and you do as much planning as you can to ensure that it comes in at the cost you think it’s going to come in at. So there’s no reason to think it’s going to come in higher than what we’ve proposed. But nobody really knows until all the tenders are received.”

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