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Prince Rupert council approves transit plan, but puts it on hold

Decision comes amid financial burden caused by sewage system repairs
A map of transportation needs was discussed at a city-held forum about the future requirements in Prince Rupert. (City of Prince Rupert transportation handout photo)

A proposed plan to improve transit in Prince Rupert has been approved by city council – but no shovels will be hitting the ground anytime soon, due to financial restraints caused by other projects.

The “Connect Rupert” plan, which is meant to be implemented over five to ten years, included upgrading public transit, improving taxi availability and making streets more pedestrian-friendly.

While council was receptive to the more than 80-page proposal, the realities of a “broken” drainage system means the city can’t invest the funds needed to go through with the recommendations made by James Patterson of Urban Systems, the consulting firm that drafted the proposal after two years of planning.

Coun. Barry Cunningham called it a “great wish list,” while Coun. Nick Amey said the proposition was “extremely expensive, not all of what’s in there is achievable.”

READ MORE: $50,000 to City of Prince Rupert for transportation project funding

Much of the focus of the project was around improving accessibility for Prince Rupert’s streets, many of which have no sidewalks. Also mentioned was making “mobility hubs” — such as the airport and ferry terminals — more convenient for non-vehicle users.

While, it may not be implementable in the short-term, adopting Urban System’s plan will be useful when applying for transportation grants in the future, said Coun. Teri Forster.

The bottom line was that while the plan looked good on paper, council says it’s financially handcuffed with the need to fix the 100-plus-year-old sewage pipes and cannot commit to an “aspirational” transit proposition.

Mayor Herb Pond said the city is currently in need of around $58 million to cover its share of the costs to fix its faulty sewage system. While provincial and federal governments are providing the majority of the approximately $205 million needed for repairs, Pond stressed that federal money will only be released once the city confirms it can cover the rest of the costs.

The city needs to fix 26.3 km of sewage pipe infrastructure, which Pond says will be a minimum three-year project.

About the Author: Seth Forward, Local Journalism Initiative

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