MOPC considers many things when building any project
Municipality of Pictou County Warden Robert Parker says there are many factors to consider when building sidewalks, including safety.
Pedestrian safety is a priority, but project costs, future development, and funding partners are also taken into consideration when the MOPC considers any project.
“I do not believe that councillors are against building the sidewalks here, but the concern has more to do with the cost of the project and the spending of taxpayer dollars,” said Warden Parker.
MOPC Council voted 6 to 5 to table a tender for a design of sidewalks in the Plymouth area so it could determine through an additional study if they would be well used by pedestrians. However, he said, what wasn’t mentioned at the meeting were other factors that include the cost of extra infrastructure work to accommodate provincial highways and the interest in having other municipalities and the province partner in the project.
Typically, he said, the cost of building sidewalks this length would be about $200,000, but the exits from the provincial highway complicate the design that requires it to include concrete islands, traffic lights, and a new independent bridge across MacLellan’s Brook. This work was estimated to cost about $700,000 a few years ago but now that could be closer to $1 million.
He said Council also needs to consider other project requests such as a sidewalk from the Pictou County Wellness Centre and to the Highland Square Mall. This is another complicated sidewalk project that could be a similar expense because it also involves working with a provincial highway overpass.
“The municipality not only wants to be sure that money is being well spent but that the infrastructure will be well used, and we cannot build a sidewalk in Blue Acres without the costly additions for safety reasons,” he said.
He said the Municipality of Pictou County has had little success in finding funding partners for these projects. In an area that involves users from two neighbouring municipalities, there needs to be some level of assistance from them, even though the project is physically in the rural municipality.
The Province of Nova Scotia is the owner of the highway infrastructure and needs to be a financial partner. It also needs to be a partner from an engineering point of view, as it could redesign that entire dangerous strip of the road a few years after the MOPC spends $1 million on a sidewalk.
“MOPC Council did request financial assistance from the province to help with the design cost, but we didn’t receive a reply,” said Warden Parker. “We will continue to lobby other levels of government to partner with us on these sidewalks and in the meantime, Council will remain alert as to how taxpayer dollars are spent which includes a survey of usage for both sidewalk proposals.”