BANFF – An $8 million reconstruction of St.-Julien Road, which has been on the capital books since 2007, is going ahead this year.
The long-awaited work will include adding a sidewalk, replacing aging underground water and sewer utilities, new light poles and landscaping elements, and improving the road surface, drainage and snow storage.
“This has been on the books for 15 years and it’s been postponed a number of times,” said Councillor Chip Olver.
“I truly believe the time to move forward with it is now. We’ve done our detailed design. We’ve done extensive community consultation. We’ve waited a long time and things are deteriorating.”
One of the goals of the reconstruction of the steep road is to enhance the safety of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists on the road to the Banff Centre and to improve connections to Wolverine Street and Grizzly Street.
The 2015 trails master plan identified St.-Julien road as one the most used pedestrian connections. A pedestrian count in 2014 showed more than 500 walkers or bike riders a day from August to November that year.
A public engagement process was carried out in February through April 2021 with the results presented to council in May of that year. Since then, work has continued on design, site investigation and planning for the project.
Individual conversations with each homeowner along the road are ongoing, with plans for tree clearing in advance of the migratory bird window in late March, with hopes of an early April start on the long-awaited project.
The road and sidewalk will be completely excavated in 2022, with final surface completion expected in spring 2023. The Tunnel Mountain trailhead parking lot is not on Town-owned land and is not part of this project, but access to the lot from the road and sidewalks are part of this project.
Councillor Hugh Pettigrew has expressed concerns about spiralling costs associated with the project, and has been unsuccessful in his recent attempts to have the project put off by at least one more year until 2023.
“The reality is we will be late tendering… and I believe this project could be somewhat over-designed,” he said.
“The risk that we’re taking if we don’t move it to 2023 is that we’re going to be unsuccessful in getting a tendering that’s economic.”
Administration has indicated the refined $8 million price tag should be considered as an “estimate for probable cost” based on the existing design and the municipality’s current knowledge of the existing roadway condition and known risks and constraints already identified.
As part of the attempt to move the project to 2023, Coun. Pettigrew also took administration’s advice to add a $200,000 inflationary cost to the project.
“I think the $200,000 is a bit of a red herring and I think we will probably save at least that by tendering it in the fall as opposed to tendering now,” he said.
“I am concerned and worried – say it comes in at $10 million or $9 million or $8.3 million – that we will be forced to make a decision to put the money aside or take money from short-term borrowing.”
Aside from Coun. Ted Christensen who threw his support behind Pettigrew, the rest of council wanted reconstruction of St.-Julien Road to go ahead this year.
Coun. Olver argued it made no financial sense to move the project to 2023, noting there would be no change to the overall balance in the long-term capital plan or to the 2022-24 operating budget.
“We see an increased cost of $200,000 in our capital budget by moving it one year. I don’t think it’s necessary again,” she said.
Coun. Grant Canning echoed Coun. Olver’s sentiments.
He also pointed to the fallout that happened when Cave Avenue reconstruction was delayed time and time again.
“We’ve made a commitment all these years to the residents of St.-Julien, and similar to what happened to Cave Avenue and how it got delayed, delayed, delayed, the frustration levels continued and I don’t think we should do that again.”