County leaders get progress report on trail system

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Windsor Star/Julie Kotsis

County councillors got a comprehensive look Wednesday at four years of progress on a system of paths and trails that allows residents to walk, run and cycle at a safe distance from motor vehicle traffic.

Since 2013, 54 infrastructure projects have been approved — from construction of multi-use paths to signage to design or feasibility projects — for the County Wide Active Transportation System, also known as CWATS.

Jane Mustac, manager of transportation planning and development, said $15 million has been spent on paved infrastructure projects throughout the county. The county has contributed $8 million, with $6 million spent by municipalities and an additional $1.5 million from the province.

Almost 300 kilometres, including signed-only areas, have been established in four years. In 2017, 30 kilometres of work is scheduled.

The end goal is to have 800 kilometres of roadways included in the CWATS plan, Mustac said during Wednesday’s meeting of Essex County Council. 

Funding varies by project. For example, the county pays 100 per cent for bicycle lanes/paved shoulders on county roads in rural areas. But the cost is split in urban areas — 40 per cent county, 60 per cent municipality.

The Essex Region Conservation Authority is responsible for 100 per cent of multi-use trails built outside of the county or local right-of-way, however municipalities pay the total amount for multi-use trails that are constructed on land owned by the municipality. Towns are also responsible for the total cost of sidewalks and bike paths along local roads.

The cost sharing applies to the design, construction and maintenance of all the infrastructure.

Mustac said the county has committed $1,000,000 per year to the program, including this year. But it has also paid $100,000 annually from 2014 to 2017 to build segments that connect the Trans Canada Trail. The bigger plan is to connect the Trans Canada Trail from coast to coast as a celebration project for Canada’s 150th anniversary this year.

Tecumseh Deputy Mayor Joe Bachetti said he’s happy with the progress so far but he wants to ensure work on the CWATS co-ordinates with the county’s roads study.

“You don’t want them going in different directions,” Bachetti said. 

In other county news, taxation representatives from each municipality will be asked to participate in a review of the vacant unit rebate programs throughout the county.

The program provided tax rebates and reductions to commercial and industrial property owners.

The review will include community and business consultations and it is expected recommendations will be submitted to the minister of finance for approval by July 1.