A conceptual illustration provided to the City of Salmon Arm shows how an overpass might be accommodated downtown. (City of Salmon Arm, Gentech Engineering image)

Overpass drawing renews call for more options

Salmon Arm to host underpass information meetings

While an overpass may be out of the question to the city, one Salmon Arm group feels the public should be given the option as an alternative to the Ross Street underpass.

In March 2009, the City of Salmon Arm received an engineer’s conceptual drawing for an overpass that would start from 4th St. NE north of Hudson Ave., travel over Lakeshore Dr. and the CP Rail building to connect with Ross St. NE.

Plan 4 Prosperity chair Jim Kimmerly was surprised when he learned of the illustration indicating the city had looked at an overpass concept, and wanted to know why it hasn’t been presented to the public as an alternative to the sought-after underpass.

“From our perspective, Plan 4 Prosperity, we just want to see that the best option is chosen and I think they should have a second option available and it should have been costed out and the whole thing and let people decide what they want,” said Kimmerly.

On Thursday, March 29, Kimmerly had an opportunity to bring this concern up with the city during a Ross Street underpass information presentation by city administrator Carl Bannister at the Prestige Harbourfront Resort.

At the presentation, Kimmerly was informed the overpass isn’t feasible. One of the reasons, explained by engineer Jennifer Wilson, was the grade would be too steep (about 12 per cent).

“I checked it out with another engineer yesterday and 12 per cent is the outer range, the outer limit for something like an overpass,” said Kimmerly. “So it’s not that it isn’t feasible, it could be done if they really wanted to do that.”

There were other factors, however, working against the overpass concept. Mayor Nancy Cooper explained to the Observer that the size and scope of the overpass makes it aesthetically unappealing. In addition, it’s unknown whether the bulk of such infrastructure could be supported on the north end. As for the grade, Cooper said the steepest part of Okanagan Ave. is on a 12 per cent grade.

“You start thinking about the winter conditions too on Okanagan, right in the middle of downtown…,” said Cooper, noting engineering drawings for the underpass are about 90 per cent complete. “We have no engineering drawings for this (the overpass) because council looked at it and decided it wouldn’t be a viable option and the property acquisition that would be needed and the aesthetics, having those big columns through downtown, it wasn’t an option.”

Cooper said the choice facing the public in the October referendum won’t be about infrastructure options, but whether or not residents support the city borrowing $5.185 million to build the underpass.

While Kimmerly maintains residents should have more options, another takeaway for him from the meeting was the city is pursuing the underpass not only for improved public safety and traffic flow, but also as a legacy to former Salmon Arm resident and developer Vic Bates.

In an email to the Observer, Bannister said he recognized the late Mr. Bates in his presentation “as a visionary for the Salmon Arm waterfront, and acknowledged his many contributions to the Ross Street underpass project, financial and otherwise.”

The underpass is expected to cost $10.5 million in total, with the remainder covered by grants, including a $1 million contribution by CP Rail, reserves and development cost charges.

The city will be hosting information open houses on the Ross Street underpass on May 3, June 28 and Aug. 30, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Prestige Harbourfront Resort. City staff will be available to answer any questions.

A referendum on the underpass will be held in conjunction with the municipal election in October. Should it pass, the tender and award process is expected to take place between October and July 2019, with construction to be completed in the summer of 2020.


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Salmon Arm residents will have opportunities to learn more about the proposed Ross Street underpass and public information meetings planned for May, June and August. (City of Salmon Arm illustration)

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