By Letter to the Editor on June 9, 2021.
Missing in action from the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) currently before Council is any urgent priority for a third bridge to connect the west side of Lethbridge to the rest of the city. Council has selected the site for the Chinook Trail River Crossing, but the CIP only proposes $4,000,000 for preliminary design work, slated to start in 2027. If we wait six years just to start design, we can forget this project for at least 10 years.
Almost half of Lethbridge’s population already lives on the West side of the river. The existing bridges (Whoop Up Drive and Highway 3) carry increasing volumes of traffic, and whether due to accident, repair, weather, or rush hour, substantial congestion and delay often occur. What will this look like in another 5 or 10 years, especially as development in West Lethbridge continues at a steady pace?
A third bridge would reduce traffic miles and congestion, save fuel, and provide alternative routes when existing bridge closures occur. This bridge could be “green”!
A third bridge will be costly, perhaps $300,000,000. However, infrastructure projects are favoured as part of our national recovery plan and grant money often goes first to projects that are “shovel ready.” A significant part of the costs could then be covered by federal or provincial grants.
So why is this Chinook Trail River Crossing kicked down the road in the CIP? Could the answer be found in the Municipal Development Plan (MDP)? The Transportation section sets out its strict priorities for new development being, in order, pedestrian first, bicycle second, transit third, commercial vehicles fourth, multi-occupancy automobiles (taxis, carpooling) fifth, and relegated to very last place – the most used mode of transportation, the single occupancy automobile. This explains a lot!
These priorities appear blind to our actual transportation needs and appear to form an agenda of sorts, reflected by underlying policy statements including “promote transportation that encourages physical activity”.
It is therefore no surprise that $47,000,000 could be proposed for bicycle paths, and $29,000,000 for electric buses and terminals – methods of transport used by a minor portion of the population – whereas a bridge that would be used by several thousand vehicles each day, with numerous positive spinoffs, is given only token mention.
Council, shouldn’t the third bridge be a higher priority? Don’t delay another six years. Get this bridge shovel ready. Authorize the needed preparatory work and engineering now!
Lethbridge Transparency Council