Tuesday, May 29, would have been a fine day to officially open the new Valleyview bike-pedestrian overpass. Next week, after all, is Bike to Work Week.
But, the opening won’t be held that day as City officials had hoped. Instead, the opening of what is officially called the Valleyview Interchange Multi-use Pathway (somebody really must come up with a better name) will be a week later, on June 5.
The reason has to do with the way politics work. When governments write cheques using our money (in this case, the province put up $2.7 million, the feds $2.1 million and the City the rest), they want to be there for the photo-op.
It takes a bit of co-ordination. Schedules must be matched; microphone times agreed upon, press releases approved.
In this case, after the date was picked, a memo was sent off from City Hall to Victoria. Unfortunately, the message got mired in the bureaucracy for awhile before making its way to Kevin Krueger and Terry Lake.
By that time, the MLAs were under whip orders not to stray from the legislature as the clock winds down on the current session and bills back up.
Colleen Lepik, the City’s transportation coordinator, diplomatically describes the change in dates as being due to “some scheduling issues.”
For his part, Lake says the whole thing was due to “a miscommunication” and he badly wanted to attend since he’s been involved with the project going back to when he was mayor.
“We can’t leave (Victoria) because the numbers are tight,” he explained. “It was just unfortunate.”
While the path is already in use, marking the milestone with an official opening is a big deal — the project has been a decade in the making, spanning the terms of four City councils. After years of complaining from Valleyview residents back at the turn of the century, the council of the day agreed to build the overpass, and began saving money.
As the years passed, the estimated cost went from less than $2 million to double that, then, by 2008, more than $4.2 million and then close to $6 million. Last fall, council had to add another $171,000 for the final phase when only one suitable bid came in.
To boot, working around train schedules proved a challenge.
The need for the project has its origins in construction of what we call “the bypass” in the 1970s, the whole focus of which was on moving traffic past Kamloops as quickly and efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, the bypass doesn’t bypass Valleyview at all, going right through it and severing that community from the core of the city.
Valleyview residents, already chafing from being forcibly amalgamated with the City, have always regarded the bypass barrier as an irritant.
The new crossing isn’t without its detractors. Some people think the money could have been better used for other things. But while few understood it at the time, it became a necessity as soon as the route for the so-called bypass was drawn on paper those decades ago.
Bike to Work Week provided the perfect time for the official opening. Instead, next week there will be a “celebration station” at the site, with the main event a week later.
As of yesterday, MP Cathy McLeod hadn’t confirmed whether or not she can attend on the new date. Let us hope she has an opening in her calendar.