Residents of Strathcona,
I'm writing to give you an update on the unfolding arterial drama and propose a possible resolution.
First, a reminder of our goals. We want a livable city. A neighbourhood where all residents feel safe walking along and crossing their streets. Where people have access to greenspace designed for them to use and enjoy. Where pollution is minimized. We don’t want the demands of transportation corridors to come before the needs of residents.
Now, the update. It has become distressingly clear that since receiving the Community Panel’s recommendation in April, City Staff has been working hard to compile reasons why it won’t work. They are prepared to make a compelling case to Council in early October that will include, among other negatives, huge costs to the Fire Department that will not be covered by Federal funds.
We suspect that Staff is preparing to recommend a plan to make Prior the arterial. This will include expropriating land from the northeast corner of the park to build a five-lane underpass (adding a left turn lane onto Raymur), that also includes a two-way bike path and a pedestrian walkway.
Produce Row continues argue that the City’s original plan to use existing right-of-way on Malkin for the arterial will put them out of business. No one is openly having an honest conversation about their skyrocketing property taxes, long-term economic viability, the best use of valuable industrial land or resilience after an earthquake.
So we would be wise to have a Plan B.
We would like to recommend a variation on a plan that the Panel itself proposed, but was not allowed to vote on.
Don’t build any arterial. Why do we need it? If traffic is being reduced as the City predicts, why build new infrastructure?
Calm Prior immediately by allowing full time parking on both sides of the street. Ask the City to commit to restoring it into a two-lane residential street. Add bump outs, speed bumps and raised crosswalks to make it safer to cross. Find a way to stop rat running. This will result in a hopefully safer and calmer street, while preserving bus, fire and, eventually, ambulance access.
With the millions of dollars saved, ask the City to commit to making capital improvements to Strathcona Park. Close Hawks to expand greenspace. Plant more trees. Add picnics tables. A dog park. Upgrade the playground and tennis courts. Create a public greenspace that attracts families and seniors. Also make much needed improvements to the Strathcona and Ray-Cam Community Centres. Invest in a livable city instead of disruptive roads and bridges.
If at some point in the future, the Provence or the Feds or the Port decide they really need exclusive access to the BI Line, make them pay for an underpass on Prior, but on our terms. Terms that guarantee Prior remains a calmed residential street. One traffic lane in each direction. A separate underpass on Union for bikes. Ask council to commit to this now.
We get a more livable city. The City saves millions. Produce Row gets Malkin. The Fire Department keeps their training facility. The 22 bus stays where it is. National remains an access road for the city works yard. The hospital design can move forward.
A compromise? Yes. But after talking to councilors and staff, it just might fly. Certainly worth putting out there.
Air Quality Forum. The SRA is holding a public forum on local air quality on Sunday, Sept. 29 from 1-4 PM at the nə́c̓aʔmat ct Strathcona Library. A panel of experts will discuss the impact of port and rail expansion on our lungs – and what we can do to monitor it. For more info e-mail Trefor.
Calm Prior Rally. We’ll be holding a rally to show support for calming Prior on Monday morning, Sept. 30 7:30-8:30 AM starting at the baseball diamond at Hawks and Prior, follwoed by a circular march along and across Prior. A big turnout will send a clear message to Council. Media will be there. Bring kids. Bring neighbours. Bring homemade signs. We need volunteers to hand out flyers and post posters on your block. For flyers, posters and info, e-mail Kate.
City Council Hearing Oct 1 & 3, 6 PM This is when Council will be hearing staff’s recommendation. We need residents to attend and potentially speak. To stay updated, e-mail Penny.