Council rejected Tuesday a $24-million deal for upgrading Tranquille corridor through Brocklehurst and instead voted to strike an advisory group to look at low-cost beautification.
The decision to proceed cautiously came in a council workshop after staff presented a beautification and gateway concept plan far richer than politicians felt would be publicly acceptable.
“I love it,” said Mayor Peter Milobar, setting the tone from around the table. “Looks good. Looks awesome. Hate the cost.”
“If we took the $24-million project to the public right now we would be rebuffed, I suspect,” said Coun. Ken Christian.
Jeff Putnam, parks and civic facilities manager, outlined a comprehensive plan that would achieve multiple goals — upgrading the road, separating a multi-use path, moving utility wires underground and beautifying the airport gateway corridor.
Funding — the entire project is estimated to cost between $19 million and $24 million — is a key challenge since the undertaking is not in the City’s long-term capital plan. It would require cuts from other budget items or “jumping the queue” of other long-awaited road improvements because that stretch of Tranquille a low priority — 10 to 15 years down the road.
Despite funding constraints, all agreed the project has merit.
“I really do think it is an eyesore when people come into the airport,” said Coun. Marg Spina.
Questions were raised whether it could be done in stages and whether federal gas tax funds or future infrastructure funds could be tapped?
Coun. Donovan Cavers pointed to the importance of improving linkage along the Rivers Trail, which is part of the corridor and Coun. Nancy Bepple noted Tranquille is a dangerous goods route and one of the busiest routes in the city.
First impressions can be critical. A little lipstick and a new hair-do would suffice, suggested Coun. Tina Lange.
“I think we need to make it a more attractive area,” she said. “We don’t have $24 million.”
Coun. Nelly Dever, who made the promise of such improvements part of her election platform, was also surprised by the cost estimate.
“This has been brought forward many times and it keeps getting sent back,” she said.
She noted that the Tranquille corridor handles 22,000 vehicle trips per day compared to 6,000 for Highland Drive, currently undergoing upgrades. The gateway hasn’t been revitalized in 35 years, she said.
“It is the full meal deal. This is not what they want,” she added, suggesting that Brock residents she’s consulted over the past four years have much more modest hopes.
The idea of striking a stakeholder task force was tossed around, but that might over-inflate expectations that the project would proceed sooner rather than later.
But a task force — or an advisory group as Christian defined it — could be mandated to look at low-cost or no-cost beautification around the airport entrance, Lange proposed.
A motion for that passed by a vote of 7-2.
Steven Puhallo, general manager of the North Shore Business Improvement Association, was more than pleased with the decision.
“I absolutely love it,” Puhallo said. “We’re certainly excited by the movement of City council.”
The corridor is a gateway, not only for Kamloops, but for the whole region, which opens the door for wider involvement, he noted.
“I think it will satisfy neighbourhood demands because it’s more than they’ve received in the last 30 years,” Dever said. “It had a body. Now it’s got legs. That was my intention walking into the room today.”