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Council responds to White Gold residents

Bridge will not narrow to accommodate a pedestrian walkway

Council has scrapped plans to turn the White Gold Bridge into a single-lane, alternating traffic system after listening to concerns from local residents.

Instead they will install new lighting and signs near the bridge to address safety concerns and make plans to replace the bridge entirely within the next 10 years.

The municipality had proposed to narrow the bridge to a single lane, which would create enough room for a safe pedestrian walkway on one side.

The bridge could have been modified for a little as $15,000.

The proposal was seen as a cost-effective, short-term solution to deal with the safety of pedestrians and bikers on the bridge, and came forward in response to a letter from a concerned resident. In the long run the municipality had always planned to build a new bridge.

But when the municipality took the proposed one-year pilot project for the single lane bridge to the public, there was lukewarm support.

More than 60 per cent of the residents in the White Gold/Spruce Grove area who responded in a consultation process were against the plans.

"I fully support safety for walkers and bikers on the bridge – but one alternating lane bridge for cars is not a good idea," wrote one resident at the public open house.

"It is an accident waiting to happen. Either leave it alone or put in a proper bridge with two lanes for cars and a bike/walk lane."

Many comments were written in a similar vein.

Despite the opposition Councillor Ken Melamed was still in favour of the municipality’s proposal.

"I was a little disappointed at the uptake," he said.

"I believe it’s the right way to go."

Melamed said many modern cities are narrowing their roads as a traffic calming technique. Moreover, he pointed to the single-lane bridges on the Duffey Lake Road, which function effectively.

With roughly 40 per cent of the residents supporting the idea, Melamed called for council to do the pilot project for a six-month period rather than a full year.

He added that 40 per cent support from the area residents is a significant amount for an initiative that has not gained popularity or understanding in North America.

But he could not drum up support at the council table on Monday night.

After the response from the public consultation process, municipal staff reexamined more alternatives, which included a cantilevered sidewalk, a stand-alone pedestrian bridge and the full replacement of the bridge.

The cantilevered sidewalk would cost $150,000 and could present snow-clearing problems.

The stand-alone bridge would be costly and could present challenges in terms of flood control.

And so, based on staff’s recommendation, council voted to improve the street lighting and signage at the White Gold Bridge as a temporary measure.

The long-term solution is to replace the bridge in the next 10 years, pending the outcome of the proposed redevelopment of the nearby Shoestring Lodge.

"I’m comfortable supporting it because I think it responds to the neighbours," said Councillor Kristi Wells.

Though council and staff were pleased with the public engagement, Melamed took exception to the charges from some area residents that the single lane option was a "done deal" even before the public consultation.

Prior to council’s decision he countered those charges.

"I can assure the residents of White Gold that we haven’t made up our minds already," he said.

The plans for the redevelopment of the Shoestring Lodge are currently before staff at municipal hall.

Developers are eager to proceed with plans for that site.