Plans to create one of the final elements of the Johnson Street Bridge project are moving ahead, and they don’t have anything to do with vehicle traffic.
The connection of the David Foster Harbour Pathway, via a walkway under the bridge will allow further pedestrian access to the east side of Victoria’s Inner Harbour.
On Thursday, Victoria council sitting as committee-of-the-whole approved a plan to secure a design and proceed with construction of the wheelchair-friendly pedestrian underpass, a job budgeted at $544,000. Of that cost, $100,000 will be provided through the Trans Canada Trail funding and the remainder from the City’s David Foster Harbour Pathway capital fund.
The underpass would extend the harbour pathway to the rear of the Janion Building, and would connect on the opposite side with the planned Northern Junk public plaza. Work is progressing on the redesign of nearby Reeson Park at the foot of Yates Street, with a new section of the Foster pathway running through it toward the new bridge.
The site currently hosting the derelict Northern Junk buildings remains a target for the Johnson Street Gateway residential/commercial project by Reliance Properties, which redeveloped the Janion.
Coun. Margaret Lucas worried that approving the funding for the underpass project would further push back work on two pedestrian bridge projects, at Heron Cove and Raymur Point in James Bay. That aspect of the pathway project was deferred by council last year on a staff recommendation, due to uncertainty over the rising cost of the bridges’ construction.
“They were very highly anticipated by that neighbourhood and we talked about it a great deal here,” Lucas said. “If we take this money now does that mean [those projects] have to be deferred even longer because we’ve got to come up with different money now for Heron Point and Raymur Park?”
Engineering and public works director Fraser Work said in the City’s discussions with the construction industry, there was no indication that a more palatable price point might be forthcoming for the two linkages.
“We haven’t taken our eyes off of those particular projects and that we continually revisit those and we are scanning the landscape for when would be the best time to recommend those for the future,” he said.
The long-term vision for the pathway project also includes the creation of connections to Store Street on the Janion side of the bridge, noted Brad Dellebuur, assistant director of transportation and infrastructure design.
Council will see a more full long term plan for the David Foster Harbour Pathway in the coming weeks, Work said.