Moncton proposes sidewalk removal policy in bid to cut costs
Councillors called for public input, more details before moving ahead
Moncton is considering removing sidewalks on some streets over several decades under a proposed policy meant to reduce maintenance costs.
In a section of the city's west-end neighbourhood with 16 kilometres of sidewalk, the proposed policy suggests cutting 58 per cent.
Councillors at Tuesday's committee meeting asked for more details and for the city to gather public input before moving ahead. That work could take several months.
Alcide Richard, Moncton's director of design and construction, said portions of the city have sidewalks on both sides of a street, something that's no longer standard.
Richard pointed to Dieppe, where sidewalks aren't installed and the city doesn't plan to plow them in the winter.
"That's a different mentality," he said. "It's trying to be efficient."
A city staff report says the city has a $6.5 million sidewalk repair backlog. Some sidewalks are cracked or portions raised by tree roots, creating an uneven surface. The report states there has been an increase in complaints from residents about sidewalk conditions.
Richard said paying for upkeep, keeping the tax rate steady and still providing good service to residents means re-examining the city's approach.
He said the ratio of sidewalks to kilometres of street is double that of cities like Fredericton or Halifax.
René Lagacé, a project engineer with the city who presented examples of the policy to councillors, said the changes would be implemented on streets with road work like repaving. He said sections could also be removed if maintenance becomes too costly.
The changes could take decades to implement, Richard said.
In the west end, a map shown to councillors indicates 9.3 kilometres of sidewalk would be removed, 6.7 kilometres kept and 58 metres added.
Around the Moncton Hospital, 11.7 kilometres of sidewalk would be removed, 28.5 kilometres kept and 624 metres added.
Coun. Blair Lawrence voiced support for the idea, but called for public input. He said deteriorating sidewalks aren't helpful.
"They're so beaten up, for seniors, they're dangerous," Lawrence said in French.
Lagacé resisted the idea of public consultation, saying objections from one person along a street could threaten implementation of the plan.
"If we go down that path, I think there's going to be a lot of resistance to it, so I don't think the vision will be achieved," Lagacé said, adding the policy has to be implemented en masse to achieve the savings envisioned.
The comparative costs of building city streets with and without sidewalks were not immediately available.
But councillors called for consultation.
"This is a major, major decision made by council," Coun. Brian Hicks said. "Look, the taxpayers are the ones who pay the bills that run this city."
The decision to keep or remove a sidewalk would be based on a street's classification. Major arterial roads like Mountain Road would have sidewalks on both sides, while minor streets wouldn't have any sidewalks.
Exceptions would apply near schools and hospitals.
The preference would be to keep sidewalks on the north or east side of a street, as they would get more sunlight in the winter, which could help reduce maintenance costs.
Once sidewalks are removed, the space would be sodded and driveways extended.