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Most new transportation spending remains focused on Abbotsford’s roadways

Most walking and cycling spending won’t happen for another decade
A new transportation plan suggests the city maintain its current sidewalk spending budget. Tyler Olsen/Abbotsford News

Abbotsford’s new transportation plan hopes to get more people out of their cars and walking, driving and taking transit. But while that’s the first priority listed among the plan’s long-term goals, the vast majority of short-term capital spending will remain largely focused on roadways.

The plan includes a total long-term transportation spending of nearly $400 million – around $30 million more than the draft plan seen in the spring.

Around $110 million of that would be on walking, cycling and transit facilities. But only a small percentage of that – about $16 million – is projected to be spent within the next decade. The vast majority of projects – nearly $90 million worth – are tentatively pencilled in for between 10 and 25 years from now.

By comparison, $171.3 million is pencilled in for improvements to the city’s street network over the next decade.

Asked about the disparity, Mayor Henry Braun noted that some of the street spending will include things like sidewalks and bike lanes.

Indeed, the largest short-term project is the $20 million rebuilding of a “complete street” along South Fraser Way from Langdon Street to McDougall. Such complete streets are designed to better balance the interests of pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders with cars.

Other complete-street projects are envisioned for Essendene Avenue and McCallum Road five to 10 years from now, and for the southern stretch of Trethewey Street in the long term.

The figures also don’t include increases to operational expenses for the city’s transit system as more buses come online, nor the already-announced $28 million transit depot.

Abbotsford looks set to boost transit funding by more than $1 million annually by 2021, after eight new buses come online. If given the go-ahead by the province, those additions will bolster transit spending by around 10 per cent over three years.

But most capital spending over the next decade will remain focused on roadways. Stretches of Clearbrook Road, George Ferguson Way, Marshall Road and Old Yale Road are all slated for widening over the next five years at a combined cost of around $15 million.

Braun said the early spending figures reflect the fact that many of the road projects must be done immediately.

“These are transportation networks that have to be improved. They just have to be.”

He also noted that the plan can be altered as circumstances and funds dictate. And he said officials and politicians hear both from people who want more spending, and those who want significantly less.

The plan recommends keeping new sidewalk and cycling spending at their current levels over the next five years. That amounts to $500,000 for sidewalks and $300,000 for bike lanes and paths.

Each would increase beyond that, although only modestly. Even in 2043, the plan still projects less than $1 million each year on new sidewalk spending, and less than that for bike lanes.

That spending will still allow for around 40 kilometres of sidewalks to be constructed over the next quarter century. Complete-street projects, and roads improved through developers’ contributions will bolster pedestrian walkways. But it will still leave the city vastly short of the 200-plus kilometres of sidewalks suggested in an early concept plan drafted for the city.

At the time, consultant John Steiner noted that achieving the goals laid out “would take well more than 25 years to achieve.”

Indeed, the plan projects that spending for non-vehicle transportation is projected to ramp up after 2028, with more than $40 million dedicated beyond then to both cycling facilities and sidewalks.

Braun told The News that despite the short-term prioritization of road projects, the city remains focused on improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and transit users.

“If we have the financial resources to do more, we will advance things,” he said. “In five years, I think most people will say, yes, the city is on the right track.”


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