A number of residents on Grandview Road are asking for a safe place to walk.
Shortly after sending a petition to Port Alberni city council for a walkway, approximately 20 residents gathered outside of Otter Place on Thursday, Oct. 26 to present their concerns about the road. The residential street is busy, but has no shoulder, and water-filled ditches separate the road from residences on either side. This leaves no room for pedestrians to walk.
Danielle Eely, a resident of Otter Place on Grandview Road, was one of the residents who petitioned to city council for the walkway.
“We’re trying to advocate for safety,” she said.
She and a few other residents first went to council in the spring of 2016, but brought their petition forward again last month. Council agreed to add the project to their 2018-2022 Five Year Financial Plan budget process, but residents said they were not happy with how their request was received during that council meeting.
“We’re not asking for a sidewalk in front of our houses,” said Eely. “Just safety when walking to the mailbox and the bus stop.”
A number of residents have had “close calls” with cars on Grandview Road. One was even bumped by a car’s side mirror while walking along the side of the road. Residents have to walk along the narrow road to reach their mailbox and the bus stop on Compton and the popular walking path along the Kitsuksis Dyke. Some have taken to driving to all of these places just for safety’s sake.
Chantal Patton, a grade 7 student at A.W. Neill Elementary School and resident at Otter Place, said that she would like a walkway so she can walk to her school safely.
“There’s absolutely no alternate route,” said Eely. “For us, we don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
According to Lindsay Olsen, senior communications specialist with ICBC, two crashes occurred in the area between 2011 and 2015, but neither involved a pedestrian.
Olsen added that ICBC does provide funding for road improvement projects led by municipalities. The sidewalk outside of A.W. Neill, for example, received $10,000 in contributions from ICBC for the Road Safety Improvement Program.
The Otter Place residents are not the only ones with concerns. Percy Flaro is a resident of the 55+ Grandview Estates trailer park across the street from Otter Place. He brought forward concerns regarding speeding on Grandview Road to city council in 2012 and had a meeting with then-mayor John Douglas because he was worried about pedestrian safety.
Minutes of a July 18, 2012 Advisory Traffic Committee meeting suggest that there is “a low volume of local traffic and little to no speeding on Grandview Road” according to the RCMP, but Flaro said the Speedwatch took place in the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, when the traffic flow was relatively light.
“Cars go flying down this road at 80 or 90 kilometres per hour sometimes,” he said.
Former city engineer Guy Cicon and former city works supervisor Randy Fraser spoke with Grandview Road residents following this meeting, and a walkway along Grandview Road to enhance safety for pedestrians was added to the 2013-2017 five year financial plan.
Five years later, the walkway still does not exist.
Current city works manager Wilf Taekema confirmed that a walkway was included in council’s list of potential capital projects, but it never made the “final cut.”
The price of the project in 2013, according to the 2013-2017 five year plan working paper, was estimated at $30,000, with the funds coming from gas tax.
A few Grandview Road residents, however, are not as keen on the idea of a walkway.
Mike Cahan is one of the property owners whose property would be affected by a walkway, as his property touches the side of the road. “We don’t want the shrubbery taken down,” he said. “We can only support a walkway if the city culverts the ditches and puts in a sidewalk.”
Taekema said the price of a walkway now will depend on the full scope of the project, which is currently being discussed by the city’s engineering department.
The installation of a sidewalk costs around $300-400 a metre, he said.
The sidewalk outside of A.W. Neill was originally planned to be a gravel walkway, but Taekema said the full scope of the project did morph a little.
“We were going to pave the full width of the road anyway,” he said. “So we traded off some asphalt costs for concrete costs.”
When it comes to installing a culvert in the steep ditch along Grandview Road, Taekema said it’s ultimately something the engineering department will have to decide on.
“There is quite a bit of right of way room on the west side of the road,” he said.
In the meantime, Grandview Road residents reiterate that putting in a walkway is a matter of safety, rather than comfort.
“The perspective changes once you walk it,” said Eely.