A referendum on whether or not Alberni Valley residents would pay for a new Roger Creek crossing would settle the matter once and for all, Coun. Hira Chopra said.
Chopra advanced a notice of motion about a referendum involving a new crossing at council’s Jan. 27 meeting. The motion would read to the effect of ‘Would you be in favour of a new 10th Avenue crossing for the price of….’.
“Lots of people who grew up here ask all the time about this. Taxpayers will be the ones to pay for this and they deserve to know how much it will cost and to have their say,” Chopra said after the meeting.
Chopra referred to two referendums that were held about the matter: one in 1981 and the second in 1983. “Both times the people said yes but the government didn’t have the money. It’s business that was left undone,” he said.
According to city records, the question in the 1981 referendum was ‘Are you in favour of a second crossing of Roger Creek’; 3,161 people said yes and 1,110 said no. In a companion question about where they would prefer it, 2,856 said 10th Avenue and 868 said 21st Avenue.
In 1983, 2,994 people said yes and 2,269 said no.
The initiative was based on the city paying for half the cost of the project and the Ministry of Transportation paying for the other half. The program the ministry would have used for funding was scrapped and the project fizzled.
A referendum now wouldn’t cost anything extra to have because it could piggy-back the civic election, which is being held in November. “It would cost between $10,000 to $20,000 otherwise,” Chopra said.
Such a referendum would bring a sense of closure or hope, Chopra said. “If taxpayers are willing to pay then we can go ahead. If not, then that (issue) is closed.”
The cost of a new bridge would start at between $10 million to $15 million, city manager Ken Watson said. Building techniques are different today than they were in the early 1980’s, he added. “Some of the methods wouldn’t be considered environmentally sound today.”
While a study with cost estimates was done for the previous referendums the information is three decades old, city engineer Guy Cicon said.
A new study would have to be carried out that would examine the nitty-gritty details of a bridge: would it run to Tebo Avenue or Ian Avenue, where would it be placed, how long, how wide, what are the approaches, etc. “These things and more are what needs to be pinpointed,” Cicon said.
The city had earmarked $40,000 for such a study in last year’s budget but the plan was scratched in a move to reduce taxes and the money re-allocated.