City Council Monday night approved phase one of staff’s proposed upgrading of Queen Street from Pim to Gore streets, by a vote of 9-2.
The first phase – the middle section from East to Bruce – carries a $6 million price tag. If the project cost exceeds $6 million, the project would be scaled back to reach that figure.
City Planning and Engineering’s original proposal called for three phases at a cost of $18 million, over three years. After much debate and discussion, a motion to split the project into three phases – with a minimum of two-year gaps between each – was tabled at council’s July 31 by Ward 2 Coun. Luke Dufour and Ward 5 Coun. Corey Gardi. That motion was defeated by a tie vote.
Ward 3 Coun. Ron Zagordo and Ward 2 Coun. Lisa Vezeau-Allen brought that motion back for another show of hands. Vezeau-Allen had missed the July vote when her Zoom connection experienced technical difficulties.
“We’re really talking about basic-need infrastructure here,” Vezeau-Allen told council, prior to the vote. “I just want to remind all of my colleagues this is a quality of life and accessibility (issue), not just where park benches and planters are going to go. We do have an aging community we have a lot of services that seniors and other folks use downtown. I think this is really important.”
The motion includes a directive that city staff apply for funding from the provincial and federal governments and other sources to offset cost to the city for re-construction at each phase.
The plan calls for a resurfaced Queen to continue with two westbound lanes. The street’s width will be reduced to 3.3 metres from the current 3.5, with new curbs and patio areas, and upgraded accessibility. New street lighting is also in the mix.
The speed limit will be 30 km/hr, as the city seeks to make the downtown more pedestrian-friendly.
Ward1 Coun. Sandra Hollingsworth voted to approve the motion but said she’d have preferred the entire project was on the table for approval.
She said more could be done to make people feel safer and more secure in the downtown core and pointed to Traverse City’s SOS button as an example. She said re-filling stations for water bottles would be a great convenience for people strolling the downtown and is environment- friendly.
“We definitely need to spruce up the downtown,” said Hollingsworth. “I‘d just rather see it all done at once instead of in pieces but I can appreciate what we’re trying to achieve here.
Bottom line is, we have a potential here to create a real ‘wow’ factor. Look at best practices, look at Detroit and how they spruced up their downtown,” adding there are good ideas that don’t carry large expense.
Ward 5 Coun, Corey Gardi said aesthetically, Queen Street brickwork and curbs are not in “passable” condition and he urged council to focus on needs over wants at this time.
“I think it’s important to focus on things that need to get done,” said Gardi. “The lighting we have been told, has to get done. (Queen St.) is not accessible for many people in our community, that has to get done.”
While he backs the current proposal, Gardi, like Coun. Hollingsworth, says he’d have preferred to see the entire Pim to Gore stretch get the vote.
“If I had my druthers, which I obviously don’t, I would have spent the $18 million and got it done. We’re going to do what we need to do over the course of a decade or so, and it’s going to be a lot more expensive than $18 million when it’s all said and done.”
Gardi said some ideas proposed for Queen were interesting but “probably would have cost a lot more than $18 million” since they involved changing the scope of the entire street. Two-way traffic on Queen was among the ideas given consideration. Gardi adds many of the “cool” ideas brought forward and discussed can be added a later date.
The vote, in favour: Mayor Shoemaker, and Couns. Hollingsworth, Spina, Dufour, Vezeau-Allen, Caputo, Zagordo, Bruni, and Gardi. Opposed: Couns. Kinach and Scott.
Queen Street was last resurfaced in 1979. Work on phase one will begin next year.