More than just plans
Once again, plans for the Government Road corridor were presented to council. Yet at the November 13 committee of the whole meeting, the accompanying report mapped out a series of phases that could be initiated as early as this year. Planning consultant Tom Fletcher presented the Government Road corridor improvements program, together with a list of recommendations for next steps as well as long-term goals.
“I reviewed the many previous efforts on ferry marshalling in order to propose what could be implemented in the near future,” Fletcher said. “There was some excellent comprehensive work completed.” He added that he believes that “grand plans amount to no plans” as there hasn’t been a way to make them reality.
Fletcher recalled that the 2004/2005 plans were based on projections that estimated population growth for the last five years. But this growth has not happened. “The growth factor was what was needed for [some of the] ferry marshalling plans,” he said, adding that another factor was private sector development. Without population growth and development, the tax base was not there to support the realization of the plans for Snug Cove. His strategy, says Fletcher, was to come forward with a long-term vision that could be realistically implemented: “We wanted to come up with something that is realistic and affordable and that ultimately contributes to the long-term plan for Snug Cove.”
Fletcher said that the plan illustrates the redesign of Government Road to accommodate improved ferry marshalling. The long-term plan envisions an expansion of the village centre to the north of Government Road and adds additional traffic lanes to permit two lanes of both loading and unloading.
“The need to have two lanes for loading is some distance in the future,” Fletcher clarified. “For that, we are looking at a diversion of the westbound lanes of Government Road along the frontage of Crippen Park.”
For phase 1, Fletcher said his priorities were to increase safety, have no wasted expenditures and enhance the experience of arriving in the village as well as the park. What comes after the first phase will depend on available resources.
Fletcher outlined key elements of the plan: ferry marshalling vehicles in the centre lane of Government Road, a safety barrier along the marshalling lane and traffic circles at the Government Road/Cardena Road and Government/Mt. Gardner Road intersections. The traffic circles will increase the safety for turning cars and buses as well as passenger drop off areas, according to Fletcher. In addition to safety, the plan provides improved parking, additional ferry marshalling spaces, as well as village enhancement and a minimal intrusion into Crippen Park.
Fletcher said that the plan comes out of discussions with council and staff and that the finance department has been involved in looking at funding options. “It’s important that the plan is realistic and we know it can be built,” he said. As next steps, he recommended holding an open house where the plan is presented to the public and report back to council on a regular basis.
For the lower end of Government Road, the plan emphasises pedestrian access to the ferry on the south side of the road and envisions a bus drop off and loading on the same side. Fletcher cautioned that this required the acquisition of land on the south side and the re-location of the cenotaph. He also saw a number of opportunities to add efficiency to the loading and unloading process such as lights that signal when the line is moving and would notify ferry personnel when more cars are coming.
The changes to the stretch between Cardena and Miller Road mostly focus on the different lane configurations. Placing the marshalling lane in the centre frees up a travel lane closer to the curb and guarantees access to parking spaces. “There are 39 parking spaces in that area and 12 or 13 spaces get blocked by the line-up,” Fletcher said. “Having a barrier in the middle mitigates the fact that people use the marshalling lane for parking. This configuration will also reduce the number of openings necessary for the line-up, effectively gaining 20 to 25 marshalling spaces.” He added that islanders need to be educated not to leave any gaps in the line-up.
Fletcher had initial discussion with Metro Vancouver Parks staff about potential land exchange (to accommodate widening the road and future village expansion to the north side) and said the reaction has been positive. He suggests working together to create a proper entrance to Crippen Park.
The first step, for Fletcher, is creating the traffic circle at Cardena Road and he presented a rough estimate for the cost of construction of $650,000. “If there is a desire to get that underway quickly, we could get started by using funds from the 2012 budget surplus if available or from either the roads and infrastructure reserve or accumulated surplus,” Fletcher said. For future funding, he suggests a one-time special levy in the 2013 and 2014 tax years to pay for phase 1. For the next phases, Fletcher said that staff proposes to consider a ferry user fee to be levied by BC Ferries on behalf of the municipality and an ongoing special tax levy.
Councillor Tim Rhodes said he has always been a fan of a bypass road and believes that putting it in place would save “money and a lot of anguish” as it would eliminate works that focus on the Government Road corridor. Mayor Jack Adelaar also expressed the interest in moving traffic away from Government Road “to create a walkable village and village atmosphere.”
Councillor Alison Morse stated the need to take action to improve ferry marshalling because of the frequent overloads and the safety issue at the Government Road/Cardena Road intersection. She also stated that a ferry levy is doable as a similar initiative is underway for Nanaimo. Another issue that she would like to see included in the plan is the need for commuter parking.
Morse also spoke in support of Rhodes’ suggestion to consider creating the bypass road first. Councillor Cro Lucas said, “It’s important to look at what we can afford. We have to be aware of how expensive this simple plan of getting a round-about is. If we are talking about a bypass road, that would probably cost around $2 million. I admire the fact that this is a simple concept - it’s phased in a way which we may be able to afford.”
Adelaar suggested to obtain funding from government sources. “We should be working parallel with grant applications for infrastructure funding,” he said. “But it’s important to keep moving forward. We have to make the plan, the vision and the finances work. Some iteration of plan has been around for 35 years, so let’s do something.”
Councillor Andrew Stone said that he sees Metro Vancouver as a potential partner and the collaboration can result in a enhanced entrance to the villages as well as the park. Councillor Wolfgang Duntz said that he is in favour of the proposal. “This is the first time I see something that is doable and considers the fiscal reality,” he said. “It’s doable, implementalbe and practical. It’s an improvement of safety, parking and functionality and the aesthetics are better. I have seen many grandiose plans, but if we can’t afford them, they’re useless. If anyone knows better, tell us where the money comes from, otherwise go home.” Duntz added that the plan is also in tune with many of the councillors’ election promises.
“We are talking mostly about ferry marshalling but I believe it is equally important to create an ambience of the village core,” Duntz said, adding that he supports discussions with Metro Vancouver in view of later phases of the plan. He also encourages a dialogue with land owners in the cove. Adelaar agreed, “We need to have a meeting with business owners [in the cove]. I really like to have something on the north side because that’s what makes a village. But we also need to look at the south side. When you look at James Tuer’s drawings, he envisioned the back of Government Road filled in with businesses, housing and wonderful pathways. On the other side, there could be more of the same. That’s something we have to think about because everything is connected.”
Fletcher said that his plan does not interfere with any potential development “beyond the southerly curb line” and one of the premises of the plan has been not to “frustrate future plans.”