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Legal fight could kill Second Avenue reconstruction

Work was to begin this spring to widen the road, fix the entrance to the Civic Cemetery and dog park, and put in a traffic light.
Minnow Lake residents got a look in April at a revised plan to rebuild a stretch of road along Second Avenue. The Minnow Lake Community Action Network and Restoration Group has filed objections with the Ministry of Environment in relation to the $5.7-million road and drainage project planned on Second Avenue. File photo.
Work was to begin this spring to widen the road, fix the entrance to the Civic Cemetery and dog park, and put in a traffic light. After initial objections from the CAN, the project was revised to include raised bike lanes along both sides of Second Avenue.

That required moving up planned drainage work, so existing ditches could become paved shoulders, allowing for the bike lanes to connect all the way from Donna Drive to Bancroft Avenue. The revisions delayed the start of the project, and added $800,000 to the original $4.9-million cost.

However, some members of the CAN wanted further revisions, including replacing the traffic light with a roundabout and replacing the five-lane intersection with a three-lane version.

City staff have said the five lanes are needed because of heavy traffic counts along that stretch of Second — as many as 15,000 vehicles a day — as well as the added traffic demands of future residential construction planned in Minnow Lake. They also said putting in a roundabout wouldn't work because there isn't enough land available on Second Avenue for it to function properly.

With the objections now in the hands of the Ministry of the Environment, the contract for the road work can't be put out to tender until a decision is made.
At city council this week, Ward 11 Coun. Terry Kett asked city staff whether there was any hope work could begin this year.

"Here we are in the middle of July, and we don't have a statement from the minister," Kett said. "Is the project dead for this year?"

Tony Cecutti, the city's general manager of infrastructure, said they may be able to issue a tender in 2014 if a favourable decision comes quickly.

“Particularly, some of the storm sewer work at the bottom end of the system might be viable,” Cecutti said. “However, it's getting increasingly difficult to make that prediction as the construction season passes.”

The ministry has asked the city to address the points raised in the objections, Cecutti said.

“Which we're in the process of doing and should be done shortly,” he said. “When that happens, the minister will decide whether the project can proceed, or whether further study is required.”

If the province orders a full environmental assessment, Cecutti says the city will have a tough decision to make.

“Certainly, full environmental assessments are very complex studies — they're very rare and are quite expensive,” he said. “Certainly, with the size and scope of this project, at that point and time, we would have to question the viability, and whether it would be appropriate to proceed or not.”

Darren MacDonald

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