A stretch of Sparks Street might end up getting a sidewalk after all.
City administrators spurred controversy earlier this year when they recommended a $1.88-million road rehabilitation project which didn’t include a sidewalk.
They proposed a largely status-quo road rehabilitation and watermain replacement project for a stretch of Sparks Street from Barrydowne Road to Roy Avenue, with the addition of speed humps to slow traffic.
Area residents objected, advocating that city council approve a project with a sidewalk on the north side of the street, plus speed humps, instead, at an additional cost of $1.2 million.
This is the point the New Sudbury neighbourhood’s elected representative on city council, Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann, successfully advocated for during this week’s meeting.
“If we do not do this at this time, it will never happen,” she told her colleagues this week, adding that by neglecting to move forward with a sidewalk, the city would “be repeating a model of the past and not a model of the future.”
Citing a number of city policies pushing for active transportation infrastructure throughout the city, such as the Complete Streets model, Landry-Altmann said, “I’m asking this operations committee to please think in terms of the future by applying the policies we have all supported.”
Ward 2 Coun. Michael Vagnini, Ward 8 Coun. Al Sizer and Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc joined Landry-Altmann in voting in favour of the sidewalk.
The committee’s approval was narrow, with Ward 4 Coun. Pauline Fortin, Ward 5 Coun. Mike Parent and Ward 1 Coun. Mark Signoretti voting no.
Although area residents’ desire for a sidewalk was clear, the city’s sidewalk priority index, which ranks the affected stretch of Sparks Street between 236 and 699 on their list of 4,013 road segments without sidewalks, resulted in the staff recommendation they do without.
Area residents joined Joscelyne Landry-Altmann in citing the upcoming construction of a 14-unit affordable housing complex at 1310 Sparks Street as strengthening the case for a sidewalk.
While a north/south sidewalk along Holland Road adjacent to the upcoming building will connect residents to the nearby library and New Sudbury Centre, area residents argued an east/west sidewalk would also benefit seniors in the building, as well as the broader neighbourhood.
A letter to city council by Spenser McCall and Julie Labre on behalf of the Ward 12 - New Sudbury Community Action Network joined area residents’ advocacy by pushing for a sidewalk.
The topic came up with “great interest and concern” at a recent meeting, they said in the letter.
“A vote was held with unanimous support for this issue,” they added. “We are hopeful that the operations committee will support urbanization with sidewalks for Sparks Street.”
During this week’s operations committee meeting, the sidewalk option they ended up approving is the more expensive of two options with sidewalks presented.
Option 3, which they opted against, would have seen the north-side sidewalk built farther into residents’ yards, with a ditch and gravel shoulder separating the sidewalk from the road. This option was $600,000 more than what the city administration initially recommended.
Option 2, which the committee voted in favour of, is $1.2 million more than the sidewalk-less Option 1 city administration initially recommended, and will have a sidewalk constructed closer to the road, separated by a concrete barrier curb and a 1.5-metre grass boulevard.
During a community meeting in February, area residents reflected on two lines of flags showing where the proposed sidewalks would be situated. Although city traffic and asset management supervisor Joe Rocca clarified that both options were on the city’s right of way, residents lamented the loss of what they perceive as their yards if Option 3 were to proceed.
With the addition of a sidewalk expanding the scope of the Sparks Street project, the road rehabilitation and water main replacement work is no longer slated to be completed this year.
The project is now expected to be completed in 2024. Of the $1.2-million cost associated with adding a north-side sidewalk to Sparks Street, $200,000 will be reallocated within the existing roads program and $1 million will be requested as part of the 2024 budget.
Although Greater Sudbury’s operations committee narrowly approved spending an additional $1.2 million on the Sparks Street rehabilitation project to include a sidewalk, their decision still needs to be ratified by city council as a whole during a future meeting.
Although city council as a whole rarely goes against committee recommendations, it is possible.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.