This is the first in a series of articles and podcasts from Peterborough Currents about the 2021 municipal budget process. For more, click here.
If you get around the city on two wheels, or if you care about promoting active transportation in our community, here’s what’s in the 2021 draft budget that you need to know about.
Transportation planning continues
The City of Peterborough is currently engaged in developing a new Cycling Master Plan as part of its overall Transportation Master Plan. The Cycling Master Plan will identify priorities for new cycling infrastructure and map out the future of the city’s cycling network.
With that plan set to be finalized later next year, Chad Pinto, the board chair of the Peterborough Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC), says PBAC isn’t advocating as strongly for any particular cycling infrastructure projects as it usually does, but rather focussing on the Cycling Master Plan, which will guide all other cycling infrastructure decisions in the future.
Pinto calls the new cycling plan, and the overarching transportation plan, a “once-in-a-generation” chance to establish “the rules for how we want the city to develop and grow and how we want people to be moving around.”
But Pinto points out that it’s still important to commit funding in 2021. “We know that the Cycling Master Plan is going to be done, so we should be pegging some money for whatever projects are identified as the highest priorities.”
According to Sue Sauve, the transportation demand management planner at the City of Peterborough, some high-priority projects are already apparent. They involve closing some gaps in the current cycling network, including:
- Connecting the multi-use trail that runs along Nassau Mills Road to the Lakefield Rotary Greenway Trail (the trail along Nassau Mills currently dead-ends at Trent University’s Faryon Bridge)
- Completing the Crawford Trail extension (see below)
- Completing the railway crossing near the intersection of Maria Street and Burnham Street
Crawford Trail extension
Of the three priority projects Sauve points out, the Crawford Trail extension is the only one with dedicated funding in the 2021 draft budget. But that funding isn’t enough to get the project built.
An out-of-service rail line running from Crawford Drive in the city’s south end to the downtown, the Crawford Trail has long been identified for a potential multi-use trail. At the time of the City’s last comprehensive transportation plan in 2012, the section from Crawford Drive to Monaghan Road had already been completed, and the remaining section between Monaghan Road and Townsend Street was proposed as a short-term priority, to be completed by 2021.
In 2018, $1 million of provincial and municipal money was committed to design and build the trail and associated crossings between Romaine Street and Townsend Street. But the project proved more expensive than expected: only the two blocks between Romaine Street and Lake Street were ever completed.
Completing the project is now estimated to cost an additional $2.25 million. No new funding was committed in 2019 or 2020. This year’s draft budget commits $350,000 — about 15 percent of the remaining cost.
That’s a much less ambitious commitment than was previously considered. The 2019 budget, for example, envisioned committing the entire $2.25 million by 2021. The current budget envisions fully funding the trail by 2024.
The 2021 draft budget notes, “Budgetary constraints have moved the remaining phases of this project to 2023/2024.”
If completed, Crawford Trail would form an integral part of the city’s overall cycling network. The Central Area Master Plan calls for eventually connecting the Crawford Trail to the Trans-Canada Trail via Bethune Street in order to create a north-south cycling and pedestrian corridor through the downtown.
The Crawford Trail extension project’s funding in 2021 and future years represents the entirety of the City’s budget commitments for multi-use trails right through to 2023.
Pinto says PBAC “would like to see more” funding for the Crawford Trail extension and other multi-use trails. With more funding, “there’s a lot more we could be doing,” he says.
King Street bike lanes
The 2021 draft capital budget still includes a King Street bike lane project, but it isn’t set to receive any funding in 2021. That’s because councillors decided in 2019 to install bike lanes on Charlotte Street, which runs parallel to King one block to the north. Now that Charlotte Street bike lanes are on the way, it’s not clear that the Cycling Master Plan will recommend bike lanes on King Street with the same degree of priority as before. So the King Street bike lane capital project is on hold in anticipation of the new Cycling Master Plan.
Road maintenance — an opportunity for cycling infrastructure?
When Richard Freymond, commissioner of corporate and legislative services, first presented the draft capital budget to city council earlier this month, he noted there was a particular focus on roads this year. “Council has made the comments, and I’ve heard it numerous times here about the importance of roads,” he said. “And so there is a significant investment in roads.”
The draft capital budget calls for over $11 million in spending to build and maintain roads in the city.
To Pinto, that might still represent an opportunity. Sometimes, instead of using funds dedicated explicitly to bike projects, the city installs cycling infrastructure like painted bike lanes as part of other road repair projects (this is how bike lanes on Charlotte Street between Monaghan and Park were recently approved, for example).
“Where we tend to have seen the most improvements over the last couple years has been when it’s been able to be rolled into road maintenance projects,” Pinto says.
Other funding opportunities
Sauve says there are some pre-committed funds from previous budget years available for cycling infrastructure projects. She’s hopeful there is enough to cover the railway crossing on Maria Street, for example.
But the other big opportunity this year is the COVID-19 Resilience stream of the federal government’s Investing in Canada Infrastructure program. That stream will fund up to 80 percent of the costs of approved infrastructure projects, including active transportation projects.
Sauve hopes that the City can access funding through the program, and put it towards the priority projects she has identified. Without receiving that funding, Sauve isn’t sure the City will be able to move the projects forward in 2021.