Fixing 'missing links' in Edmonton's sidewalks starts at $10M

Hundreds of kilometres of missing sidewalks in Edmonton could be filled in the coming years if council approves the money and the strategy presented at a meeting on Tuesday. 

The initial cost is only for 20 per cent of missing sidewalks

There is approximately 500 metres of missing sidewalk on the east side of Gateway Boulevard from 83rd Avenue to Saskatchewan Drive. (Paths for People)

Some of the missing links in Edmonton's sidewalk network could be added in the coming years if council approves the money and strategy presented at a meeting on Tuesday. 

City administration estimates it will cost $10 million to work on only 20 per cent of the city's sidewalks that either come to an abrupt end or are missing sections. 

A report in front of city council's urban planning committee shows more than 100 kilometres need a designated space for people to walk. 

Marcel Huculak with the group Paths for People urged councillors to invest in filling the need. 

"Such missing links are incredibly frustrating for pedestrians," Huculak told the committee. "People travelling on foot are made to feel like second-class citizens. Every missing connection beside a roadway sends a message that vehicles come first, pedestrians come second."

Paths for People launched an initiative called "Missing Links," which has gathered some 200 submissions from the public. 

Huculak, a traffic engineer by profession, said the public feedback was telling. 

"It just floored me how many missing links were here that I didn't know about." 

Huculak noted about 500 metres of missing sidewalk on the east side of Gateway Boulevard from 83rd Avenue to Saskatchewan Drive, even though Old Strathcona has been undergoing revitalization.

"Desire lines indicate people are already using this space to walk," the Paths for People website says. 

Priority list

The city added 53 locations to its existing list, which equals about 14 km of missing sidewalk, from information collected through the Paths for People initiative. 

The list is separated into high, medium and low priority areas as well as industrial locations. 

The work identified 45 high priority spots, including the following locations:

  • The stretch of 23rd Avenue from 119th Street to Magrath Road
  • 23rd Avenue between Terwillegar Drive and Rabbit Hill Road
  • 88th Avenue from 170th Street to West Edmonton Mall where a pedestrian bridge used to be 

Huculak said buses go to industrial areas, only to leave people to navigate on "do it yourself" paths. 

"So we're dumping people off on the industrial area and they can't get around," he said. 

He suggested the city starts filling the deficit in walkable areas like downtown, Oliver, Whyte Avenue and areas where people connect at bus stops. 

Many of his constituents in the city's northeast are frustrated with the lack of safe sidewalks, Coun. Aaron Paquette said.

"The only option they have to get anywhere is to drive," he said. "For literally billions we spend on roadways, we should be allocating some small percentage of that to make sure that people can actually walk." 

More seniors are giving up their vehicles or choosing to walk to get to appointments and run errands, Paquette said. 

"Not only is that more healthy but it saves them money," he said. "There's a whole segment of the population that needs these sidewalks and we're just not providing them, and that should be the basic thing that a city gets right, is getting around."

Red lines denote high priority spots, orange are medium, yellow are low priority and purple lines show sidewalks missing in industrial areas. (City of Edmonton)

Mayor Don Iveson noted that sidewalks have fallen off council's radar. 

"We take our eye off the ball — and I admit we took our eye off the ball on sidewalks for a couple of years — it leaks out of the budget and all of a sudden, you're back to zero and falling behind," he said. 

The city plans to prioritize the missing sidewalk links according to proximity to senior facilities, commercial developments, schools, parks, recreation centres, public spaces, and how they can connect to river valley trails and transit centres.

Administration will submit a request for $10 million to advance planning, design, and construction of the majority of high priority missing links, approximately 20 kilometres of sidewalk, by the end of 2022.

The city has already approved a $2 million "Active Modes" program in the 2019-22 capital budget, which will be used to install missing curb ramps.



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