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Red Deer city council defers discussion about $50 million new pedestrian bridge to next year

It will be weighed against other priorities for the 10-year capital plan
Red Deer city council deferred the discussion about whether to embark in an expensive pedestrian bridge and other costly capital projects over the next decade until this time next year. (File photo by ADVOCATE staff)

A proposed $50-million bridge between Capstone and Bower Ponds will be added to a long capital project wish-list that city council will discuss and prioritize in 2024.

The hefty price tag for the bridge left Coun. Victor Doerksen “not a little” surprised on Monday. But Mayor Ken Johnston said he was expected the proposed pedestrian crossing over the Red Deer River to be about that expensive.

“I am not shocked that it cost so much in today’s terms, Johnston added, as this kind of project was estimated to cost $20 million in 2012.

A number of citizens have been calling the city to express concerns over the cost after a report on the logistics of embarking on a new pedestrian bridge which was included in a report to city council.

But Red Deerians should be assured that the city council will not embark on bridge building — or any other expensive infrastructure project — without first asking residents to weigh in, either through Let’s Talk sessions or an online survey, said the mayor.

City council opted on Monday to postpone discussion of large capital projects that could be undertaken in the next 10 years until the second quarter of 2024.

At that time the entire wish-list of potential builds will be discussed — including whether to move construction of the aquatic centre, with a 50-metre competitive pool, onto the 10-year Capital Projects list, and whether to plan for the creation of a performing arts centre.

Both of these items were past citizen priorities, and council was told it will be time to re-assess the list to see how Red Deerians feel now.

Doerksen had pushed for examining the costing of a pedestrian bridge at Capstone, saying that it would spur development of residential commercial riverside projects.

On Monday Doerksen said he’s always been a proponent of the city living within its means, staying within its debt limits, and being able to set money aside in reserves.

But if new government funding becomes available for such projects, he added, “I don’t want to lose the opportunity for what this can being to Red Deer.”

Several other councillors, including Vesna Higham and Dianne Wyntjes, brought up the long wait many swimmers have faced in getting a 50-metre pool.

“When will we be adding the aquatic centre into our 10-year plan?” said Higham, who noted Red Deer remains the only city of more than 50,000 people in Alberta without a competitive pool.

Since Edmonton and Calgary trying to bring the 2030 Commonwealth Games to Alberta, the timing — in terms of getting available grants for new pool projects — might be right over the next few years, she suggested.

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Lana Michelin

About the Author: Lana Michelin

Lana Michelin has been a reporter for the Red Deer Advocate since moving to the city in 1991.
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