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5-4 vote quashes Steveston multi-use pathway

The bike and pedestrian lane will be back on the June 12 city council meeting agenda for a final vote.
The proposed multi-use pathway on the south side of Steveston Highway.

The majority of Richmond city council has voted against more funding for a bike and pedestrian lane on Steveston Highway, essentially quashing the project.

Two sections of a three-section multi-use pathway from Railway Avenue to Shell Road – which had already been approved by previous councils – was back at the council table on Tuesday at a hastily called committee meeting.

The tendered bids for the project had gone over budget by $2.5 million, and city council was asked to approve the higher cost in March.

But, instead, they asked city staff to look into whether the entire project could be moved to Williams Road, which is already a dedicated cycling road and some said would have better air quality than the Steveston Highway pathway.

If moved, however, it wouldn’t receive $5.5 million in funding that was promised by TransLink and the provincial government.

The original cost of the entire project was about $11.5 million, but with the higher bids, it was expected to be about $14 million.

When the issue came back to the extra committee meeting on Tuesday, the vote was 5-4 against approving the higher cost, with councillors citing safety concerns – because of some narrower vehicle lanes - and the aforementioned air-quality concerns.

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie expressed his frustration at the opposition to the multi-use pathway, saying, not only was it part of the local vision to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it supported regional goals as well.

“We’re looking to the future – that’s what we want to do, look to the future,” he said.

Furthermore, the Steveston Highway pathway would increase cycling capacity, and those who preferred Williams Road could still use it as their preferred route, he added.

Brodie noted the plan has been in front of city council “a dozen times,” but “all of a sudden there’s this big problem.” The first two phases were approved in 2019 and 2020.

“I believe that to turn it down was a mistake,” Brodie told the Richmond News after the meeting.

The project was envisioned in three phases, creating a three-metre-wide bike and pedestrian lane on the south side of Steveston Highway from Shell Road to Railway Avenue.

City staff, in a report for Tuesday’s meeting, said the air quality on Steveston Highway was about the same as it was on Williams Road. Steveston Highway sees about 50 diesel semi-trucks a day, whereas Clark Drive in Vancouver sees about 2,100 equivalent trucks, a volume that does affect air quality.

Voting against the increased cost were Couns. Carol Day, Laura Gillanders, Kash Heed, Andy Hobbs and Bill McNulty.

The Steveston Highway multi-use pathway will be back on the June 12 city council meeting agenda.

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