City council has approved an additional $400,000 of reserve funds to complete work on the Juniper East emergency access road.
The emergency access project proposal was brought forward in August, a month after lightning sparked an interface fire between Juniper and Valleyview. The blaze prompted a number of evacuations which resulted in traffic gridlock as vehicles moved to leave via Highland Road.
Marvin Kwiatkowski, the city’s development, engineering and sustainability director, told council Tuesday that staff now estimate the project will cost $800,000 based on thorough site survey work done in the fall — double the initially approved budget amount of $400,000.
“At the time, that was in August, we didn't do any design work. It was a walkthrough,” Kwiatkowski said, adding that the initial cost was based on a high-level estimate.
"Since that time, of course, we've had an opportunity to get a survey crew out there, do some more design.”
The emergency access and egress road will run from the east end of Kicking Horse Drive, through a new strata, through 450 metres of city-owned land, and a privately owned gravel pit.
Kwiatkowski said crews have done survey and design work to ensure if an evacuation happens, the road is able to safely handle vehicles towing boats and large trailers.
“We want to make sure that we can accommodate that, and we did a bunch of that design work in the fall,” he said.
“We find that estimate beefed up things like the base, sub-base materials, [we’re] looking to use recycled asphalt pavement for the surface. And a significant [amount] — I believe it's about 8,500 cubic meters of fill material that we would obtain from the adjacent gravel pit.”
Kwiatkowski said the city has been working with the gravel pit owner to secure emergency public access through the property, and the nearby strata has paved and completed its section of road — paid for by the developer last fall.
The province has also given its approval to allow the city to complete its work within a watercourse.
Kwiatkowski said he has heard residents still have “significant interest” in seeing the project completed.
“We are hearing from the community that if any more development proceeds, they do want that emergency access route completed ASAP. The plan would be to complete that this spring, before the fire season,” he said.
“We’re also [hearing] of some rumblings they would like a permanent access as well. I've heard that, but our mandate at this point in time is emergency access, and to try to get the best bang for the dollar and get it done at a reasonable cost and in a reasonable timeframe.”
Coun. Arjun Singh asked if any other neighbourhoods are being eyed for emergency access roads.
Kwiatkowski said grant applications have already been submitted for proposed emergency routes out of Qu’Appelle Boulevard, connecting Juniper West and Rose Hill, and another in Aberdeen.
“That's the other one that we see is a very key area given the vegetation in that area given the number of residents given that there's not really an emergency access up at the top end,” Kwiatkowski said.
City council voted unanimously in favour of authorizing staff to use an additional $400,000 from the city’s working capital reserve to complete the road.
The emergency access road is expected to be completed in spring 2022.