Opinion

Time to get budget priorities straight

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Following up on the million-dollar bike path to nowhere on  Lougheed Highway from last year’s list of silly expenditures, Maple Ridge may have spent close to $200,000 replacing the traffic roundabout on Kanaka Way.

It seems the old roundabout just wasn’t doing its job as many drivers, at times when there was very little traffic, simply ignored it and drove straight over the painted lines on the road.

While the $200,000 estimate is a best guess amount, with municipal crews, outside contractors and equipment tying up traffic on Kanaka Way for a month or so, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to surmise it could have cost more than the suggested $100,000 figure set out in the capital budget.

The final costs of the Kanaka project won’t be known until all the bills are paid and, even then, those figures might not include the internal management and design costs, which add to the overall bill.

Traffic roundabouts are the municipality’s way of trying to increase the safety and efficiency of traffic flows, but the success or public acceptance of these initiatives seems to be lacking. To many motorists, traffic calming is just another way of saying traffic impairment.

The tight radius of some of the roundabouts makes it difficult to successfully maneuver larger vehicles, such as motor homes or light trucks with attached trailers, through the twisted course of the traffic circles without running over the curbs.

These small radius roundabouts have popped up in other locations, such as 122nd Avenue between 222nd and 216th streets, and there will likely be many more of them until someone calls a halt to such questionable use of public funds.

It is doubtful that the district is serving much purpose other than to distract and annoy drivers and roundabouts are very expensive, especially if they are ripped up and replaced without much justification, such as the Kanaka Way example.

And just so we won’t soon forget the Lougheed Highway bike path to nowhere, this year’s capital budget also includes $900,000 to construct Phase 3 of a similar multi-use path on Abernethy Way. The previously completed section of this pathway includes that silly little fence constructed of ugly little pieces of fence posts, which are already showing signs of collapse.

These inadequate posts might have served a more noble purpose as logs for a campfire.

In contrast to the Cadillac-design pathways on the Lougheed Highway and Abernethy Way and other similar projects, the downtown commercial district has poorly designed or totally absent provision for pedestrians in many areas. The best example of this is the dangerous pedestrian route between Valley Fair Mall and Haney Place Mall. The north side of Selkirk Avenue from 226th Street to a point opposite Thrifty Foods has no sidewalk, at all, or any other form of designated pedestrian path. This stretch of the street is dangerous to pedestrians, wheelchair and scooter users and motorists alike.

And further east on Selkirk, there is absolutely no provision for pedestrians along the entire frontage of the municipally-owned property all the way to 227th Street.

You just have to wonder who sets the budgetary priorities for these things. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are available for projects for which there seems to have been little demand other than from a few hundred cyclists, while thousands of downtown pedestrians are left to their own devices about how to maneuver through our pedestrian-oriented core.

In 2014, Maple Ridge plans to spend $18.203 million on capital projects, not one nickle of which will be spent on the needlessly dangerous stretches of Selkirk Street.

 

Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former district councillor.

 

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