Revelstoke council delays decision on highway intersection design

Mayor calls for special meeting on intersection. Consultant puts estimated cost at $2.1 million. Shell threatens legal action.

An image of the proposed layout for the highway intersection.

An image of the proposed layout for the highway intersection.

Revelstoke council pushed off a decision on the problematic Trans-Canada Highway intersection, citing fears over ballooning costs and worries the design won’t work.

A new report by McElhanney Consulting, the engineering firm hired to create a design for the new intersection and oversee its construction, estimates the cost of fixing the intersection at $2.1 million, and it also contains letters of opposition from affected businesses.

That had council call for a special meeting to discuss the intersection. It has been scheduled for Wednesday, May 4, at 3 p.m.

“I’m still not confident about this whole situation and where we’re going with it and what we’re doing,” said councillor Connie Brothers during Tuesday’s council meeting. I just want to make sure w’ere not putting a Band-Aid on something for that amount of money rather than dealing with the problem fully.”

The proposed design blocks left turns from Victoria Road to the Shell station, and from the Woodenhead Loop to Victoria Road. A roundabout would be built at Victoria Road and Wright Street to route traffic flow.

The final design makes minor changes to the plans presented at an open house in March. Notably, it modifies the access to the frontage road that passes the Shell Station, and improves pedestrian access to the Shell. It also scraps the proposed roundabout at Laforme Boulevard and Fraser Drive.

Significantly, McElhanney estimates the cost of the project at $2.1 million, far more than the $1.2 million the city has budgeted the work in its 2016–20 financial plan.

The city plans to use Development Cost Charge funds to pay for the work, but Graham Inglis, the city’s director of finance, said there’s only about $1 million in the DCC fund directed to the work.

A report by McLehanney says the proposed intersection would improve peak traffic flows to a rating of B, from a rating of E. A rating of A indicates free flowing traffic, while an F means gridlock.

The report addresses concerns raised at an open house held in March about snow removal and the ability of big trucks to navigate the Wright Street roundabout.

Council was split on whether or not to proceed on the revised design. Linda Nixon voted in favour of moving forward.

“I think we can not put off moving those people from Columbia Park back and forth safely to their neighbourhood,” she said. “I am concerned that if we do not take this forward today, then we are looking at next year before we come up with a solution.”

Mayor Mark McKee said he wasn’t “100 per cent happy” with the plan, especially with the potential $2.1 million price tag.

“I’m not going to vote in favour because I think we need a little bit more time and we need more massaging,” he said.

He proposed holding a special council meeting to discuss the proposal in more detail.

Mike Thomas, the city’s director of engineering, said he didn’t think the final cost would be as high as $2.1 million.

“I’d be really surprised if we went out to tender and received a price that high,” he said. “It doesn’t seem like $2.1 million worth of work.”

He warned that if council didn’t make a decision within the next month, it would be very difficult to finish the work by next summer. McElhanney recommends building the roundabout this year, with the work at Mutas Road to be completed in the spring of 2017.

Thomas said the city is looking for grant opportunities to help pay for the construction, and that it would be seeking a contribution from the Ministry of Transportation & Infrastructure.

The city had a gas tax grant application turned down.

In the end, McKee, Brothers, Sulz and English voted against approving the design, while Scott Duke, Nixon and Aaron Orlando voted for it.

One thing that’s not known at this point is how the changes address the concerns of existing businesses. The owners of Tim Hortons and Shell both submitted comments opposing the preliminary design, with Shell threatening legal action if it were to go through.

When asked about this, McKee responded: “I think that’s going to be part of council discussion on what it wants to do. I think we all have to realize that as a community, when you have a big problem like we have down there, to think you’re going to make 100 per cent of the people and businesses happy is going to be difficult.”

Thomas told the Review the city has not had follow-up meetings with Shell or Tim Hortons. “We haven’t gone back out to the stakeholders at this point. We want to bring these things to council first.”