The implementation of the Cowichan Valley Regional District’s regional active transportation plan will likely require the cooperation of the province to make it cost efficient and successful, the board has heard.
The RATP project, which is exploring opportunities for expanded walking and cycling/rolling networks in the CVRD, is still in its planning stage, and the project’s consulting team, Bunt Engineering & Associates and Uplift Engagement Co., updated directors on its progress at the committee of the whole meeting on March 23.
But Alison Nicholson, director for Cowichan Station/Sahtlam/Glenora, pointed out that the costs of a number of the expected initiatives in the plan may prohibit many of them moving forward without the assistance of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
She said that during some engineering work that was recently completed in the Miller, Koksilah and Indian roads area, MoTI officials were adamant that if a roadside pathway for walkers and bikes is constructed there, the CVRD would be responsible for the costs of snow clearing on it.
“Right now, I don’t think it’s realistic from a cost perspective point of view to do some of the projects that will be in the RATP,” Nicholson said.
“[MoTI] talks the talk about active transportation, but the ministry doesn’t support it in any helpful way as far as I’m concerned.”
Brian Farquhar, the CVRD’s manager of parks and trails, said that he believes that while the ministry’s main focus is roadways, drainage swales and ditches, MoTI is evolving and officials are beginning to understand that transportation is more than trucks and cars and does involve active transportation.
However, he said MoTI has standards and guidelines so it’s up to the officials in the CVRD to work with the ministry to help them better understand the nuances of what’s required locally, and the RATP that is underway will help better inform the ministry of those issues.
“But the ministry also has the approach that the funding they have for roadways doesn’t include additional money to take on things like widening shoulders and other components of the RATP that we want to see come forward,” Farquhar said.
“So we have to continue to engage the ministry on things like snow clearing [on roadside pathways] to better understand their concerns and, ideally, find ways to resolve them.”
Nicholson said if the CVRD wants to move forward and implement the RATP when it’s completed, the district will have to get serious about advocating with the province about better standards for suburban areas.
“We have to get really serious about this because it’s hugely unsafe out there,” she said.