Friday, October 15, 2010

City goes to bridge borrowing referendum

City Council has again endorsed a new bridge as the best option to address the aging Johnson St. Bridge connecting downtown to neighbourhoods to the west.  It's a critical crossing and an important link in an integrated and diverse regional transportation network.

I've written extensively on my blog and at about the research I've done to inform my vote on this important project.  We need a bridge to the future, not one that preserves the unsustainable design we've had for the last 86 years.  While we work to preserve our heritage, we can't be held hostage to it.

Refurbishing the old bridge would be expensive and disruptive and we'd still have an old bridge that would drain resources for maintenance and operations.  The peer review of both the replacement and refurbishment options confirmed what our engineers and our consultants have been telling us about the condition and the costs we face of either choice.  The new bridge is the most responsible and sustainable choice.

Beyond all of the seismic and structural deficiencies, providing for the many thousands of cyclists and pedestrians who use the bridge daily can't be built into the old bridge. Those numbers are growing fast and will accelerate when a new trail alongside the E&N is completed.  Helping people to make the choice to walk or cycle for many of their transportation needs is critical to the success of many of our regional transportaton objectives and one of our most effective strategies for addressing climate change at the local level.

This is the most critical project in the region, perhaps the most important of any on Vancouver Island.  It is the weak link in a busy cycling transportation network serving many neighbourhoods around Greater Victoria and it is the gateway to a rapidly expanding multi-use trail system that is connecting communities from Victoria to Nanaimo and beyond.  It's a key support for a growing cycling tourism industry that has so much more potential on the Island.

The next step is to make sure all of the funding is in place.  The federal government is kicking in $21 million and the Capital Regional District is endorsing our request for more funding to support the rail and the trail.  (Don't buy the fairy tale that gas tax funds can help pay for refurbishment - only projects that help lower greenhouse gas emissions are eligible and, without improvements to the level of service for cycling in particular, saving the old bridge just won't qualify.)

The city's funding will come from borrowing - it saves our reserves for other capital projects and allows us to finance the project without raising taxes.  A 25 year mortgage on a 100 year asset is a pretty good deal.  The new bridge will serve long after the loan is paid off.

Referendum day is November 20th and I encourage you to get out an vote.  It's important to endorse the borrowing so we can get on with the project.  You can read more at my pages of course, but you can also click on the posting title and connect with the city's bridge page.  There are a numbers of public events where you can find out more about the bridge and the borrowing.  I expect to attend some of them and hope to see  you there.

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