Agassiz-Harrison bike lane plan finds a new gear

‘Shelf-ready plan’ will smooth federal, provincial funding appeals

A plan two decades old to join Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs via a bike lane is one step closer to being a reality after District of Kent (DOK) council unanimously approved funding for the detailed design last Monday.

The $230,000 plan would create a shelf-ready drawing for the DOK and Village of Harrison Hot Springs to pitch to the province and Ottawa for funding.

The project has been in the works since the mid-90s, when healthy communities forums at that time in both towns said that “this was their top priority as a recreation and commuting route between Agassiz and Harrison for school student and anyone else,” said Deputy Mayor Sylvia Pranger after a presentation by staff at Municipal Hall Monday.

And in certain sections it is probably the most unsafe cycling area in this area, Pranger added.

The province has covered the costs to date for the Agassiz to Harrison Bike Lane/Multi-Purpose Path Project’s conceptual design, but to be eligible for the grants that would be required to fund the building of such a project the municipalities need a design package that’s completely ready.

“I’m optimistic,” said Mick Thiessen, Director of Engineering Services, later in the week. “We’re trying our best to move it forward and having this funding for detailed design is one step closer.”

The amount approved will be allocated from the $1.1 million available in the District’s community works gas tax fund and has been included in this year’s financial plan.

Further, the Official Community Plan (OCP) contains language that supports the path, according to staff.

“I’d like to see this council actually complete [the path],” said Coun. Darcy Striker at last Monday’s meeting. “In most local surveys that we do it’s always one of the top priorities for the community.”

The only thing he doesn’t want to see is a $230,000 plan sitting on a shelf collecting dust, he added.

DOK Chief Administrative Officer Wallace Mah said it’s a great opportunity, especially with the support of the region’s MLA Laurie Throness.

“My discussions with him look promising for future grants with the province and perhaps with the federal government,” Mah said. “We don’t know what the total cost of the project is going to be when it’s completed but it’s one of these things that if you don’t make a commitment we’ll never get the project off the ground.”

The work required to put a plan like this one together is very involved, according to Thiessen.

And though it won’t be finalized until after a meeting with the Ministry of Transportation, it’s likely that Ch2M Hill is the engineering consultant company that will do the job.

Detailed survey work, confirmation of legal right of way, geotechnical considerations, the design of the bike multi-purpose pathways on both sides of the highway, and infrastructure change plans with the proper design drawings are all components of the plan.

“And basically you have a drawing that you give to a contractor and they can build the project,” Thiessen said.

Along with the detailed design, detailed cost estimates would come, he added.

“When you consider the length of the infrastructure—I believe it’s approximately 5.5 kilometre length that we’re dealing with from Agassiz to Harrison on both sides—that would equate to almost 11 kilometres,” Thiessen said. “There’s some challenges there with some cut and fill slopes and some rock faces, some sight line issues, some utility poles to work around and possibly there may be some drainage design works.”

He said that after staff meets with the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure next steps will be clearer, but the detailed design work is budgeted to be completed this year.

“At this point we’ve got approval for the funding of the detailed design and we’re working on the next steps,” Thiessen said. “And of course council will be advised from staff as we move forward in the process at the appropriate times.”