Burnaby speeding up sidewalk construction with $10M/year boost

Approximately 40 per cent of local streets lack sidewalks

The City of Burnaby is boosting funding to accelerate the construction of new sidewalks in the coming years. 

Council voted Monday to increase its spending on sidewalks by $10 million per year to cover the 40 per cent of local roads – 275 kilometres – without a sidewalk on one or both sides. 

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Staff will add the new spending to next year’s capital budget. Specific sidewalk projects will then be planned and presented to council for future approvals. 

In all, the city estimates it’s missing 438 km of sidewalks.

Burnaby currently builds an average of 7 km of sidewalk every year – putting it on pace to cover only half the city’s needs over the next 30 years, according to a staff report. Staff estimate “completion of the sidewalk network would take over 60 years through current policies, practices and funding levels.” 

Staff recommended to increase the sidewalk spending by $5.5 million but the financial management committee it to $10 million. 

“The committee deliberated it and felt it was important to look in the more near, foreseeable future to have the program completed,” said Coun. Sav Dhaliwal, the committee’s vice chair. 

The staff report says sidewalk spending is funded by a capital reserve, but “any significant increases to the sidewalk program” would require more tax contributions to the fund. 

Dhaliwal said he doesn’t think a tax increase will be necessary, as the city regularly comes under its capital budget. 

He said all Burnaby streets could have a sidewalk on at least one side within the next 15 to 20 years. 

But two councillors took issue with the plan and the way it was presented to council. 

“I’m actually pretty surprised to see a report like this coming forward, seeing as we just concluded our budget discussions and set a new tax rate for 2019 a couple months ago – and no such proposal ever came forward in those discussions that I recall,” Coun. Colleen Jordan said. 

Jordan said she doesn’t like to see one-off changes to spending plans outside of annual budget discussions.  

“What we have to do around this table, together as members, is bring together a budget that sets our priorities. And maybe sidewalks aren’t as important as an additional firehall, maybe sidewalks aren’t as important as facilities arising from the housing task force. I don’t know, because we’re not dealing with these all together,” she said. 

Jordan moved to have the plan sent back to staff to be reconsidered during next year’s budget deliberations. The motion failed, with only Coun. Dan Johnston joining her. 

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