Squamish's newest pedestrian bridge will have a yearly operating cost ranging between $170,000 to $300,000 — numbers which gave some elected officials second thoughts.
On June 9, council was given a first look at design plans for the upcoming pedestrian bridge on the Mamquam Blind Channel, which includes a lift to allow vessels to pass through.
The structure will link the Waterfront development to downtown Squamish, while also providing sitting and rest areas for viewing the channel.
Council made some suggestions, but ultimately approved the design in a 4-2 vote. Councillors Chris Pettingill and Jenna Stoner were the dissenting votes.
Coun. Doug Race recused himself, as he said he was listed as a potential customer for a unit in the development.
Both Pettingill and Stoner had issues with the cost of the bridge.
The bridge's price tag has risen to $5 million from about $3.5 million, said municipal planner Susan Stratis. Bosa Properties, one of the developers behind the Waterfront project, will be the one to shoulder that price.
However, the municipality will still have to pay operating and maintenance costs. For the first year, staff say that it may be anywhere between $170,000 to $300,000.
"We do need to do a gut-check on how much we value that specific connection," said Stoner.
"I do think that there are alternative ways. A small-cable ferry could really do the trick."
Such a method may not allow people to cross as frequently, but it would cost a fraction of the bridge's cost to operate, she said.
However, the municipality's director of planning, Jonas Velaniskis, said that if the municipality wanted an alternative to a bridge, it would have to renegotiate its agreement with the developer.
Velaniskis added the bridge has also been a selling point to potential buyers, so the developer may not be willing to change plans.
Stoner was also worried that the bridge wouldn't be wide enough to provide enough space for cyclists and pedestrians.
Furthermore, she said she found its aesthetics "unwelcoming."
On the other hand, Mayor Karen Elliott threw her support behind the project.
"This went through rezoning and public hearing and there was lots of support for this bridge," said Elliott.
She said it was necessary to create a vibrant connection between this area to downtown.
"To me, this is fundamental to how our downtown evolves. We have no timeline for the bridge that goes across further up on the Mamquam Blind Channel," said Elliott, referring to another proposal to add an alternate entrance to downtown.
"We have no funding for that from other levels of government at this time, but we do have funding for this bridge."
Remote operations of the lift, among other things, she said, could help manage costs.
Coun. Eric Andersen had similar words, and also added that without the pedestrian bridge, he was worried the Waterfront project could be more connected to Vancouver than downtown Squamish.
Many of the residents may be commuters going to the city then coming straight home if the bridge isn't built, he said.