Burnaby council members have paused a decision on the design of a pedestrian bridge over Highway 1 until more detailed information can be presented as councillors and the mayor disagreed over options that could cost between $10 million and $30 million.
In August 2021, Burnaby North-Seymour MP Terry Beech announced $6.8 million in funding to build a pedestrian and cyclist overpass to connect Burnaby Lake Regional Park and Deer Lake.
But in order for the city to be given the grant, the project has to be finished by March 2026.
At the Jan. 24 council meeting, a recommendation was put forward by city staff that council allow staff to move ahead with the detailed design of option number one (out of three options).
Option one (Claude Avenue/McCarthy Court Crossing) is the preferred route, a report presented on Jan. 24 said, based on the strength of its proximity to key destinations in Burnaby's civic precinct on the south side of Highway 1 and the Glencarin Trailhead to the north. The report says the option carries a lower cost, along with reduced impacts to the environment, private property and third-party infrastructure. The total cost would be $9.4 million and would meet the March 2026 deadline.
Option two is the Claude Avenue/Wilton Avenue crossing, which according to the report would be more expensive than option 1.
Option three at Sperling Avenue would cross the highway at a perpendicular angle, minimizing the length of the main span, which the city says would provide reasonable connections to both the Glencarin Trailhead and destinations that are north of Sperling. There was no price estimate for this option.
Option four would cross the highway directly along Sperling to create the most direct possible linkage between origins and destinations located along the Sperling access, which de-prioritizes access to the Glencarin Trailhead. The price estimate for option four is $29.6 million. The report stated there is timing uncertainty associated with both Sperling options and could put the federal funding in jeopardy.
Coun. Joe Keithley voiced his support for option one, pointing to the price point and timeline as contributing factors.
"I think that considering the price tag 9.8 million, compared to close to 30 million, I mean, that's three times as much. That's just obvious," he said.
"Where with option one, Claude Avenue, this could be completed within a year. The ground is set; the embankment is the right height; it's much easier to do.
"Let's get on with it, get this done, build up our actual transportation network. This to me, is like an easy thing to do. And it's much less complicated and we get it done in a year."
Coun. Pietro Calendino said he supports option four, saying the cost shouldn't be a large worry if it benefits the community more than an option of less cost.
"Obviously as it's been said that direct route is always the best route and when you have to choose the best route, the best always costs a little more.
"Obviously we're looking not just at cyclists, but pedestrians and for pedestrians, it's a more direct route between Burnaby Lake and Deer Lake or village museums so I would opt for option four."
Coun. Dan Johnston also supported option number four, saying if they want the overpass to be well used, the closer to the Kensington overpass, the better.
Mayor Mike Hurley said he believes option one would be most beneficial overall, stating it has the least risks and funding is already in place to complete the project.
"Number one is the least risk to it. And we have enough funding in place already to do option one," he said.
"And I see these connections from Lougheed Mall to Lougheed Town Centre to Metrotown Town Centre and also connections from Brentwood Town Centre to Edmonds Town Centre. And to me, this is the focal point of those connections, I just don't see it as a walk from Burnaby. Lake, over to where the museum is, this is really a bigger picture issue than just that simple. And I get it, we will still have to walk a long ways to go up those switchbacks and come back.
"So from my perspective, I think just for the cost and for the value, and for the look of it as well. It will look far better.
"I know the rest of the councillors don't agree with that. And I'm OK with that. But I just see it as a much bigger picture than just point A to point B. There's a lot more points in it."
Coun. Alison Gu suggested that instead of just a survey gathering basic data, the city could ask what start and endpoints would be for users of the overpass.
City staff said it was information that they could gather.
"I don't want to slow down work," Gu said. "But it might do well to inform the decision."
A motion was then tabled by Keithley to have the data Gu suggested collected for the final decision-making process.
"If we actually had the data where this was going to be used by cyclists and by pedestrians, that would be a lot more informed, like opinion and help us guide our suggestion," Keithley said. "So I'm not saying I'm right about this, perhaps the others who want to do option four right, but I think getting the data and tabling this matter, for now, would be a wise move."
The motion was seconded and the matter tabled until a later date.
The next phase of work after a design is chosen will include public consultation including further consultation with key stakeholders including further consultation with First Nations.