PICTOU – The Municipality of Pictou County will be seeking requests for proposals for the design of sidewalks in the Blue Acres area.
Council voted Monday during its Property Services meeting to accept RFPs from companies that are interested in designing about 700 metres of new sidewalk on land that sits between the towns of New Glasgow and Stellarton. The RFP submissions will be taken to Council after the selected closing date for further discussion and possible approval.
District 2 Coun. Deborah Wadden brought the issue to Property Services after receiving emails from a woman who wrote councillors about the lack of accessibility in Blue Acres because there are no sidewalks in the busy traffic area that has many exit ramps. She gave examples of people being forced to walk on the road or in mud and snowbanks in order to pass through the area, making it unsafe for all ages of pedestrians.
Coun. Wadden pointed out the province is making accessibility a priority and the Municipality is forming its own accessibility committee to address issues and this is something that should be looked at sooner than later.
“We have to step up and really work to make the Municipality much more accessible and not because we have to, and we will have to, but because we want to. We must plan and work with appropriate partners such as the Department of Transportation so when opportunities arise, we have a plan in place, and we can act on it. We need to put our heads together to work outside the box,” she said.
District 11 Coun. Andy Thompson, whose district encompasses Blue Acres area, said his residents often feel cut off because they are close enough to walk to New Glasgow for services but feel unsafe doing so.
“I encourage people to go sit there and see people navigate Blue Acres,” he said. “We need a design done for this. We have an accessibility committee we are forming, and I am arguing that this is one of the key pieces of infrastructure that needs to be addressed by this committee. What we need to do is get a plan in place. Get a design done and if it costs X number of dollars, let's go looking for the money,” he said.
Warden Robert Parker said the issue of sidewalks in Blue Acres has been looked at by Council for many years and it has had some discussions with the province’s Department of Transportation in the past which have deemed the area as unsafe for pedestrians. He said the province told the County that major infrastructure work needs to take place in the area to accommodate new sidewalks, including putting in islands, a walking bridge, and signalized lights.
It was estimated in the past that it could cost more than $700,000 to put sidewalks and additional infrastructure in place, but an official design was never done.
Warden Parker said he is concerned about encouraging more people to walk in the area when it is considered unsafe, but he is not opposed to getting a design study done to determine the true costs and the work needed.
“Until we get a design and plan in place, we can’t apply for federal funding. At least if we have a true cost, we will know ourselves if we can move ahead with this project,” he said.