Three Saanich councillors are asking council to consider a $2-million investment in road safety improvements for the District. (Black Press Media file photo)

Three Saanich councillors ask for $2-M investment into District road safety

‘I don’t want roads to be safer in 30 years, I want them safer now,’ says Coun. Ned Taylor

Three Saanich councillors are proposing that the District invest $2 million in road safety upgrades.

Couns. Rebecca Mersereau, Ned Taylor and Zac de Vries submitted a report to council highlighting a need for investment into improved road safety infrastructure in Saanich. They are asking their peers to discuss the report at the Jan. 20 council meeting and vote on adding the $2 million expense to the draft 2020 budget that will be submitted for council consideration in March.

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In the report, the councillors acknowledge that there are several factors that contribute to Saanich residents’ road safety concerns including road speeds, parking and inadequate infrastructure for vulnerable road users. They pointed out that the financial aspects of increasing road safety are a barrier but are within council’s control.

Saanich’s transportation network needs to make sense for all road users, reduce the need for a car and ensure residents’ safety, Taylor explained. He feels the current network doesn’t do that.

“There are lots of roads in Saanich where it’s actually quite dangerous to walk or bike along,” he said.

De Vries agreed, noting that residents have been voicing concerns about road safety in the District since before the election.

Taylor explained that the Active Transportation Plan (ATP) is strong but that the 30-year timeline means residents will need to wait too long for safer roads.

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The councillors acknowledge that $2 million is a large sum, but note that investing in “necessary infrastructure” is expensive.

Just one metre of sidewalk costs $1000, Taylor noted, and District staff told the councillors it would cost upwards of $12 million per year to cut the ATP 30-year timeline in half – which they say Saanich taxpayers can’t afford.

Mersereau explained that “meaningful improvement” can still be made with $2 million. In the report, it’s noted that $2-million is enough to construct about 2 kilometres of sidewalks, 20 new sidewalks or fund projects to add speed radar devices, regulatory signage and crosswalk and sidewalk improvements to streets that require them most. The ATP provides a framework for prioritizing upgrades, Mersereau noted.

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While speeding up the ATP is a priority, Taylor explained that investing in road safety aligns with Saanich’s strategic plan in at least eight ways – one of which is to work towards a goal of carbon neutrality by 2030. Increased road safety infrastructure could help reduce the District’s greenhouse gas emissions by giving people the opportunity to travel through Saanich without a car.

Mersereau is pleased with the feedback from residents so far and is “feeling positive” about having the report come to council. She feels it will enable an important discussion.

“This is a priority for the three of us and I hope for the rest of council,” Taylor said. “We’re eager to get this work done.”

Although he feels optimistic about Monday’s meeting, de Vries acknowledged that they can’t predict what the final 2020 budget will look like as “tough decisions” are made during budget deliberations.


@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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