A city transportation study was nearly killed by Saint John council Monday night amid a flurry of questions about cost and need.

Funding for the $205,000 engineering and consulting study was approved by councillors in December as part of the city's 2017 operating budget.

But Monday councillors tabled the selection of IBI Group to undertake the work, to give city managers the opportunity to justify the project's value.

The study would mark the second phase of a three-part project to create a new transportation strategic plan for the city.

The multi-year project is looking at traffic and truck routes, public transit, active transportation, and parking.

It is expected the three phases combined will cost about $600,000, if approved. 

The first phase was completed in 2015.

Jeff Trail, the city manager, urged councillors to support the study.

"The order of magnitude on this plan is something like one per cent of our annual spend on transportation," said Trail.

"It should give us very valuable information for the next 20 or 25 years around how to allocate those scarce resources."

'I don't know where you would get that money.' - Coun. David Merrithew

But several councillors had concerns about the cost.

Coun. David Merrithew said he feared the plan will only lead to more spending.

"When you talk about complete streets, and more crosswalks and traffic calming measures, they all cost money," said Merrithew.

"I don't know where you would get that money."

Coun. Blake Armstrong said he's been hearing from constituents who want the project halted.

"The bottom line is they don't like the number 205,000. I tend to agree with them because it's not a time to do it."

In the end councillors agreed to table the motion to give city staff time to present on the need for IBI's study.

That came as a relief to Mayor Don Darling.

"I think that's a good outcome," said Darling.

"I prefer that to perhaps the transportation study being just voted down and us just stopping dead in our tracks."