Update on Kelownabikes blog

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Grant has turned over the blog to me for the time being. I plan to post three or so times per week. I would appreciate comments, ideas and corrections.

Phase I of the Rails with Trails:

A lot has been happening in Kelowna with regards to cycling, both good and bad. Looking at the good, the City has finally begun construction on the first phase of the Rails With Trails. It starts near Gordon Ave (the north end) and will finish at Spall Ave. There are plans to extend it all the way to the UBCO campus but I expect that will take a lo…..ng time. The City hopes to have phase I will be ready for use this spring.

UBCO cycling/pedestrian access:

I will briefly mention the UBCO/flyover access to the campus. I plan to cover the complete UBCO access situation over the next few posts.

In the late summer of 2006, reps from the UBCO and Kelowna cycling coalitions met at UBCO with representatives of the City of Kelowna and the Provincial Dept. of Transportation. UBCO was invited but did not attend. The flyover project (for automobiles) had been planned and construction was about to start. The cyclists (I was one of them) were concerned that there would be no safe cycling/pedestrian access too and from the campus to go along with improved automobile access. The cyclists pressed for an “optional” route to bypass the Ellison Overpass.

For any who have gone over that unpleasant piece of the provincial highways network you will know why a bypass is needed. Briefly, the north bound lane on the Ellision overpass has an extremely narrow shoulder, forcing cyclists to “share” the road with high speed automotive traffic.

The cyclists provided a written report to UBCO, the City and the Dept. of Transportation (the three flyover partners) outlining 4 possible bypass routes. As a result of the ensuing discussion, the three partners agreed to construct an optional route. Over a number of months, 12 different variations were explored and finally in the late summer of 2007 (after the automotive portion of the flyover was complete) option 12 was accepted by the three. The project manager from the Dept. of Transportation was very fair to the cyclist reps in that he kept them regularly updated on the plans and asked for input on the options being looked at.

Note: the cyclists asked for a widening of the Ellison overpass but this was not considered an option by the Dept. of Transportation. We were advised that the bypass was actually two structures and thus not ammenable to widening. There was also mention that the costs would be very high and that the flyover project was not able to include other issues in it’s agenda.

The current plan (option 12) involves a bicycle/pedestrian path from the north end of Adams Court across a piece of private property, along the rail way right of way and across the rail line to join the path recently constructed from the rail right of way to the south east corner of the UBCO campus.

There is the possibility of a big delay on this project. We had hoped this would be in place and in use by now. At the first meeting, in the summer of 2006, we advised the project manager that we were very concerned about the time it would take to obtain a rail crossing from CN. We felt that the railway(s) should be kept informed of any impact the route would have on their property in order to keep any delays to a minimum. Negotiations between the City of Kelowna and CN, for the first phase of Rails With Trails took years, and we did not want to see that happen in this situation.

It should be noted that the rail property is owned by CN Rail and leased from them by Kelowna Pacific Rail (KPR). I have done some research on this and the best information I can come up with is that crossings are mainly an issue for KPR, with a final approval by CN, whereas any parallel path on the rail right of way is an issue for CN. Thus the project manager must now negotiate the right of way use and crossing with both railways.

I have recently been advised that the application for right of way use and a crossing was received by CN on the 10th of October 2007. Interestingly enough, I had emailed the new project manager on the 3rd of October, asking for an update and in particular, a date for the completion of the optional route. The response was that CN was very difficult to get in touch with and thus the implication that they were causing the delay.

With the assistance of several staff at UBCO and a neighbor, I was able to get the names and contact information for people from KPR and CN. I forwarded that information to the project manager, hoping to facilitate the process and get things moving.

I have been informed today that negotiations are going well on the private property acquisition and that negotiations are going “slowly” with the railway companies.  Considering that the application was sent in very recently that is no surprise.

John.

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