Steep spike in projected cost leads to further review of waterfront walkway extension

By Dominic Abassi
April 5, 2019 - 5:48pm Updated: April 5, 2019 - 7:39pm

A rendering of the walkway in the Northfield Creek section, extending from the Departure Bay ferry terminal.City of Nanaimo

NANAIMO — The City is taking a step back on a popular addition to the waterfront walkway after detailed design work revealed a price tag three-times initial estimates.

Staff will present a report to Council on April 8 outlining their intention to hire a consultant to perform a detailed review of a 350-metre addition from the Departure Bay ferry terminal to White Eagle Terrace, a piece known as the Northfield Creek section. An elevated walkway in the area, identified as a priority section in the approved implementation plan, was originally estimated to cost $3.5 million.

Bill Corsan, deputy director of community development, said detailed design work actually revealed the cost would be more like $10.5 million or more.

"We don't think the public or council will be comfortable with this price tag without doing a bit more analysis," Corsan told NanaimoNewsNOW. "We're trying to come back with an option that meets our budget but also meets people's expectations."

Plans originally called for the Northfield Creek section to be underway in late 2018 or early 2019. Corsan said the addition to the walkway is not on hold, but rather under review.

"Doing this work is going to give everyone the full information on costing and we can go into it with eyes wide open," he said.

Corsan said studies already done recommended the City explore an on-beach walkway option for the Northfield section, with costs potentially ranging between $4.8 and $6.3 million. He described the options being explored as something like the Stanley Park seawall or something with a more naturalized feel.

Staff are also recommending Council choose borrowing as opposed to taxation to pay for the walkway expansion. That means if Council chooses to move ahead once the next round of design and study is done, electoral approval through an alternative approval process or referendum would be required.

Initial estimates placed the cost of a continuous 13-kilometre walkway from Departure Bay beach to the estuary at between $30 and $41 million.

"It's hard to tell the cost until you get to these detailed designs. I think the final price tag is probably higher," Corsan said.

Despite the delay on the Northfield Creek addition, other new pieces of the walkway are already underway. A section from near the Gabriola Island ferry terminal to the assembly wharf should be open this summer. Design work is also underway for new sections along the Newcastle Channel, below Stewart Ave.

It's possible Council will provide alternative direction at Monday's meeting when the report is presented.


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On Twitter: @domabassi

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