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Benjamin Road repaving to include provision for cyclists

A portion of Benjamin Road slated for repaving this year will have the asphalt extended wide enough to accommodate cyclists, as Woolwich council this week approved adding another $147,000 to the project’s cost. The budget for the entire job is pegged at $1.47 million.

When the portion of the road between Westmount and Kressler roads is resurfaced, there will be 0.65-metre paved shoulders and 1.75m wide gravel shoulders.

Councillors meeting Tuesday night also looked at the possibility of full bike lanes – 1.2m wide paved lanes and 0.5m wide recycled asphalt shoulders – but balked at the $700,000 in additional costs.

With the paved shoulders as approved, the extra asphalt doesn’t qualify as official bicycle lanes, but provides a safer area for cyclists, noted director of engineering and planning Dan Kennaley.

The move was endorsed by Patrick Gleeson of the Woolwich On Road Cycling Group, who presented petitions with 497 names calling for provisions for cyclists to be included in the repaving plan.

Gleeson compared including bike lanes in township projects to the early days of trails development, which also met with some resistance but today is a lauded part of Woolwich. It was much the same with sidewalks, he added, noting such walkways are automatically included in any new subdivision.

“Ideas evolve into standards,” he stressed, adding that other municipalities are making provisions for cyclists as a matter of course.

Supportive of the concept, Coun. Mark Bauman asked Kennaley if it was possible to look at narrowing the driving portion of the roadway (currently set at 3.35 metres) to allow for more buffer room for those travelling on the shoulder, including cyclists, pedestrians and drivers of horse-drawn buggies. Such a move would require no extra cost, simply changing where the lines would be painted.

Kennaley responded that planners would investigate that option, but noted there could be liability issues in relation to provincial standards for drive lanes.

While councillors were generally supportive of the lanes, they raised concerns about paying for the extra costs.

The staff report recommending the extra paving called for 20 per cent of the additional $147,000 to be taken from the township’s development charges fund, with the remaining $117,000 to be financed through debt. The funds would be tacked on to the $725,000 Woolwich plans to borrow for paving projects this year, explained director of finance Richard Petherick.

Bauman appeared unhappy with that option, saying that would only put off the costs onto future generations.

“I think we need to be paying for our costs today.”

Coun. Patrick Merlihan suggested the township look at alternatives such as drawing on reserve funds or earmarking some of the expected surplus from the 2014 budget.

Noting that most of those who signed the petitions come from elsewhere, largely Kitchener and Waterloo, Coun. Larry Shantz suggested the region might get involved in the project, especially as it relates to work on a cycling network being touted as a tourist draw.

When people in the cities want to come out to the rural areas to use the scenic roads, “it becomes our cost,” he said.

Councillors are expected to revisit the funding options when the township deliberates its capital spending budget for 2015.

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