North Saanich, Sidney and the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA) have formalized their cost-sharing agreement for the construction of a new roundabout near the Amazon facility on airport land but within the municipal boundaries of Sidney.
The agreement will see Sidney and VAA each contribute up to $2.65 million to the project, each accounting for about 41.4 per cent of the total estimated cost toward the project, which also include a realignment of Sterling Way. The District of North Saanich will contribute up to $1.1 million, representing $17.2 per cent of the project budget. A Class A estimate pegs the total budget at $6.4 million, including contingency.
These final cost figures depart from the initial memorandum of understanding (read: less formal agreement) between the three parties that followed a 40-40-20 formula. But North Saanich’s previous council subsequently capped its contribution with some councillors having openly questioned the future value of the roundabout for North Saanich, even as many residents use it, along with Sidney residents. The estimated cost of the project also rose by $900,000 to $6.4 million with North Saanich picking up none of the increase as per its previous council resolution with Sidney and VAA splitting the increase equally.
This arrangement has not pleased everybody.
Coun. Scott Garnett last month found North Saanich’s behaviour “problematic” and demanded that North Saanich honour its initial commitment of 20 per cent.
He also expressed the fear that Sidney residents could end up paying more (and North Saanich residents even less) if the project were to experience cost over-runs in the future. (Coun. Sara Duncan had previously spoken of the proposed roundabout as Sidney’s version of the McKenzie Interchange). Sidney staff tried to ease such concerns by pointing to the quality of the estimate and its large contingency.
In end, Garnett’s criticism did not bring about a change, nor a comment from North Saanich Mayor Peter Jones at the time. It is also important to point out that Sidney has applied for a $5 million federal grant on behalf of its partners. If successful, the grant would offset the majority of project costs, reads a release from the municipality, in which all stressed their commitment.
“The District of North Saanich is pleased to contribute to this initiative that will improve the safety and efficiency of transportation in the area,” said Jones. “We are grateful for our partnership with the Town of Sidney and the Victoria Airport Authority and look forward to seeing this project realized.”
Sidney Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said the municipality is looking to improved traffic flow and safety for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians using the area.
“I appreciate the multi-jurisdictional collaboration that has made this Stirling Avenue realignment and new four-way roundabout possible,” he said.
VAA’s president and chief executive officer Geoff Dickson said VAA is pleased to have reached agreement on the financial formula for what he called a “vital piece” of infrastructure. “This represents another milestone in seeing this initiative, which has been needed for a long time, come closer to fruition.:”
A concept design for the roundabout and realignment of Sterling Way is available, but not yet formalized.
According to the release, the project managed by VAA will likely go to tender in the spring of 2023 with late 2023 identified as completion date.
The proposed roundabout lies near the crucial intersection of Beacon Avenue and Highway 17. While improvement plans date back some two decades, they gained urgency with the release of a traffic study of the high-profile and the arrival of the Amazon facility marked a recent apex in the development of Sidney’s commercial-industrial area west of Highway 17 with more on the way. The area itself borders a residential area also due to experience growth.
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