Final phase of Kingston John Counter Boulevard rail overpass to start, but with some concessions to pedestrian right of way

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By Kristen Frisa

Ontario Construction News staff writer

Kingston’s widening of John Counter Boulevard is set to move into its final phase after the tender is awarded for the project this summer. But a staff report given at the regular city council meeting on June 4 detailed some concerns about foot traffic over the bridge that are counter to city hall’s current policy to encourage active transportation.

The report details that a 2006 environmental assessment completed during planning for the bridge left space on the structure for four lanes of traffic, bike lanes, and a sidewalk on either side.

However, a project risk analysis completed in 2009 narrowed the bridge slightly and removed the south-side sidewalk from the bridge. The narrowing of the overpass deck was necessary to avoid a costly redesign of the bridge support and structure and additional mitigation of environmentally sensitive land and flood plains.

A redesign would also require renegotiation with CN because it would take up more land at its base.

If these changes were to be undertaken, the increased capital cost is estimated at $3.5 million, and the project would be delayed by about 30 months.

While these drawbacks are far too costly, the current city council is intent on promoting active transportation, as are other municipalities across the province.         Kingston’s Active Transportation Master Plan (ATMP) and through development of the AT Implementation Plan the city has been intent on removing barriers and creating AT networks that span the city.

After reviewing these plans, staff concluded that the removal of the south-side sidewalk created a disconnect in the pedestrian network, and that the southern walkway would be adopted in place of the one on the north side. Buffered bike lanes are included in both directions on the bridge.

“This option provides direct connectivity for pedestrians between Princess Street, Via Rail, and Portsmouth Avenue,” the report reads. “It also provides consistency for cyclists along the entire JCB corridor, and creates a pedestrian only facility that is buffered from vehicles.”

The request for proposals (RFB) for this project were issued in late 2018, and resulted in five proposals from Coco Paving Inc., Dagmar Construction Inc., Gordon Barr Ltd., R.W. Tomlinson Ltd. and Toronto Zenith. The two top-ranked proponents were then invited to confidential meetings with the evaluation team before they prepared best and final offer (BAFO) proposals.

The chosen candidate is currently in contract negotiations with the city.

John Counter Boulevard is a major east-west arterial route that stretches from the Cataraqui River to Princess Street. Widening of the roadway began in 2012 in a five-phase plan. In 2019 to 2021 the remaining phase stretching from Sir John A. Macdonald Boulevard to Princess Street involves the re-alignment and widening of John Counter and the construction of the bridge over the rail line. The entire project carries a cost of $63 million.

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