Hall Street lane creates slippery slope of debate in revitalization project
The city will be searching for a new angle off the steep angle of Hall Street and will be temporarily closing one back alley lane to traffic to do so.
The problematic grade of the revamped street — around 19 per cent, nine more than a typical steep street grade — threw a curve into the Hall Street revitalization project’s phase one, and city staff came searching for answers Monday night in city council’s regular meeting.
The finished street now sits well above the lane (or alley) that serves the 300 block of the street, making a connection from the back alley lane to Hall Street an expensive endeavour.
When final grades on the Hall Street hill were determined, and how steep the lane access would be at the end of the day, it got city staff thinking ‘What do we want to do with this?’” said city manager Kevin Cormack in his presentation to city council.
Coming out of that lane to Hall Street was always a problematic area, Cormack admitted, so any envisioned solution was never an ideal one. As well, the revitalization project never addressed the problem, he said. Large retaining walls would needed in the narrow lane to keep it open.
The only use for the lane is for customers of the Ross Lake building, said Cormack, but the lane has been closed for three months and the city has not received any comments or complaints on its closure.
With the intent of the revitalization project to make Hall Street more pedestrian friendly, the lane closure would help accomplish that, said Cormack, but there would be additional cost to do it.
“If we are going to make it a proper lane, we should invest money and we should make it work properly,” he said, which might cost the city upwards of $40,000 to $50,000.
Coun. Michael Dailly said the lane problem was not a surprise.
“But I’m trying to determine what is the best thing to do here,” he said. “From what I’ve seen it is not keeping it open.”
The comment ignited Coun. Bob Adams who said a drop curb was put in for access to the back alley by the company hired to do the project recently, but on the Friday of the Union of BC Municipality meetings (last month) council received an email saying the lane would close.
“That’s a surprise, I don’t know how you can say it was not a surprise,” he said.
Dailly said if there was an element of surprise, council had to get past it and deal with the matter at hand.
Adams was perturbed that a decision was made on the lane before it came to council, and he wanted the lane to remain open — and be one way — so people could access the handicap parking spot in the lane at the base of the Ross Lake Building.
Triple M consultant Jim Roe — the designer of the project — said the Hall Street grade grew steeper in the end when it was paved. Ten to 12 per cent is a steep road and 17 per cent is a very steep road and Hall Street was 19 per cent.
“My concern with keeping it open is a pedestrian at the bottom of those stairways may not be visible as you come in,” Roe said. “It’s still going to be steep, and you may not have the ability to stop.”
Roe added that the goal of the revitalization project was to improve sight lines on Hall Street and Vernon intersection and make it a fully functioning four-way intersection. To do that the intersection was pushed further south, meaning Hall Street’s grade came up and the roadway was narrowed.
“If we lowered Hall Street any more to make the lane access better the sight lines would get worse up at Vernon,” said Roe.
The original plan for the project kept the lane open to right-in traffic only. However, that motion was defeated by council after further discussion. The original design would cost $10,000 and leave it as a poor access point because of the grade.
However, the money needed to make it work was not anticipated in the original design.
Cormack advised council to “do it properly to open it” or close the lane and make it pedestrian friendly.
“Right now there is no way you can get to the lane off of the current grade,” he said.
Council passed a motion to approve the plan to temporarily close the lane, with the intent to make a final decision in the spring of 2016. The lane closure — with “soft-scaping” in place to make it pedestrian friendly — could cost the city an additional $10,000.
The Hall Street revitalization project phase one consists of infrastructure and public realm upgrades and improvements from IODE Park in the south to Lake Street — and the Nelson and District Community Complex entrance — in the north.
Phase two consists of infrastructure and public realm improvements from Lake Street to the waterfront. The timing of phase two will be dependent on completion of phase one and availability of funding.