City estimates show it will cost an eye-popping $1.6 million over three years to put bicycle lanes on Cannon Street. But several councillors say it’s not enough for them to withdraw their support for the project.

A new staff report says the city will spend $867,200 on capital costs to build two-way bike lanes from Sherman Avenue to Hess Street in Hamilton’s lower city. It will also spend $728,970 over three years to operate the lanes, including waste collection and snow removal.

That’s up from the $600,000 public works manager Gerry Davis estimated it would cost when councillors voted in September to implement the lanes.

The numbers “certainly raised the hair on the back of my neck,” said Coun. Terry Whitehead, who represents Ward 8 on the Mountain.

But the city has gone too far on the project to turn back now, he said, likening it to “putting the toothpaste back in the tube.”

Coun. Robert Pasuta, who represents Ward 14 in Flamborough, was surprised to hear the numbers too.

“That’s a lot of coin,” he said.

The staff report, which the general issues committee will vote on Wednesday, estimates $598,000 to build the lanes. This includes a separator between car and bicycle traffic and traffic signals facing in both directions on the one-way street. The report builds in a 25-per cent contingency fund of $149,500.

Staff also estimate spending $242,990 per year — with a 10-per cent contingency fund — to operate the lanes.

The capital costs will come from Ward 2 and Ward 3 area rating budgets. Another $200,000 will come from a reserve set aside for red-light cameras.

The operating cost will come from a tax stabilization reserve in 2014 and become a general budget item in subsequent years.

Justin Jones is a member of Yes We Cannon, a community group that pushed for the bike lanes. Jones wonders if the cost estimates are an inaccurate picture of what it will actually cost. And he wonders how they differ from maintaining that stretch of road in general.

Estimates are high

“I feel like the numbers being thrown around, to be honest, are a little disingenuous,” he said. “I’d like to see the cost comparisons as far as the maintenance goes that include how much it costs to keep a lane of traffic clear of snow on Cannon Street.”

If you remove the money coming from area rating budgets, and subtract the amount it costs to maintain an ordinary traffic lane, Jones suspects the cost of the bike lanes is not that onerous.

Coun. Brian McHattie of Ward 1, a supporter of the bike lane project, acknowledges that the number seems high. But this is the first project the city has done like this so he didn't know what to expect.

“We make a lot of investments in expanding roads,” he said. "This is the first time we’ve built a contraflow bike lane.”

Wednesday’s vote will be a symbolic one, he said — a decision to put tax dollars toward complete streets and greener, healthier transportation.

'It's all taxpayer dollars'

Coun. Sam Merulla of Ward 4 wasn’t surprised by the estimate, nor did it turn him off the project. This is especially true since it’s coming from budgets for Ward 2 and 3.

But Pasuta still found it hard to swallow.

“It’s all taxpayer dollars.”

Wednesday’s vote is the final stop before the city designs and implements the bike lanes. Davis will report back to council each year on the project.

The report also recommends spending $25,000 on a communications plan.