While a $5 million dollar vehicle bridge connecting both sides of Port Alberni is already on the Nov. 15 ballot, some residents are looking for a greener option.
John Mayba, an avid cyclist and member of the Alberni Valley Transition Town Society (AVTTS) thinks that the city needs to see the Roger Creek ravine as an opportunity rather than an obstacle.
Having a bridge there would make the ravine “a real asset,” said Mayba.
While a cycling bridge would still be expensive, it would be both cheaper than the $4.9 million vehicle bridge on the ballot currently and also suitable for grant money through the provinces’ Cycling Infrastructure Partnership Program (CIPP) through Bike BC. The program would cover up to 50 per cent of the cost of the bridge or 20 per cent of the CIPP budget, which was $360,000 for 2014/2015.
While Mayba has wanted a cycling bridge for more than a decade, the project has never qualified for the funding requirements, which include having a shovel-ready project with public consultations and design work already completed that is part of “an adopted bicycle network plan.”
The cycling bridge is in the very preliminary stages and will only be presented to city council for the first time at the Oct. 27 meeting.
Mayba doesn’t have a specific location for his proposed green crossing.
The city has an Active Transportation Plan now. City engineer Guy Cicon said that the plan, adopted in July 2014, would allow the city to apply for the CIPP grant should Cicon receive council direction to go forward with design work and a public consultation process.
According to Mayba, the plan has also created some momentum for cycling and pedestrian infrastructure improvements in the city that he would like to take advantage of to get the process of designing a bridge started.
Cicon couldn’t comment on the design of the bridge and said that an engineering firm would need to be hired for any bridge planning, but the bridge would likely need to be a suspension bridge in order to reduce costs.
As Mayba wants the bridge to be able to accommodate cyclists, pedestrians, scooters and wheelchairs, the bridge would need to be 3.5 metres wide in order to comply with Ministry of Transportation bridge standards and procedures for two-way bridges for both pedestrians and cyclists.
While Jim Rhodes’ $4.9 million vehicle bridge proposal does include space for cyclists and pedestrians, Mayba is not sure that Rhodes’ plan would accomplish the same goals as a pedestrian and cyclist bridge.
When Mayba started his “Bridge to Unite Us” campaign in 2008, he outlined six ways in which the project would benefit the city:
• a focal point for the community, something to take pride in
• health benefits for the people walking and cycling across the ravine
• a connection between shopping districts in North Port and South Port
• connect ADSS, North Island College and Echo Centre to North Port and Pacific Coast University to South Port
• a tourist draw that would increase Port Alberni’s profile
• it would decrease the city’s carbon footprint and help further its commitment to becoming carbon neutral.
A vehicle bridge would increase connectivity and somewhat reduce the city’s carbon footprint by providing a shorter route across the city, but it would not encourage people to walk or cycle nor would it be the same sort of tourist draw, Mayba said.
“I’d like this to be a noteworthy structure so that when people come to town, that would be one of the things they’d like to see,” he said, adding that he’d be open to whatever suggestions come up.
However, in contrast to Rhodes’ crossing proposal, Mayba wants any cycling and pedestrian bridge to be a high level crossing.
“I mean, what a view. It would be wonderful to be able to look down at the ravine.”