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Beltline Neighbourhoods Association worried street improvements will be cut

Planned improvements to city streetscapes could be on the budget chopping block, but not if folks in Calgary’s Beltline have any say in the matter.

On Monday morning, the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association was urging residents in the area to attend a pop-up consultation and raise their concerns about potential cuts to street improvements.

“In and around the Beltline there’s a number of streets that were slated for public realm improvements as part of the Main Streets program and also just other reinvestment programs,” said Peter Oliver, president of the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association.

He said the 8 Street SW Corridor Improvement Plan is at risk of not being implemented. The study looked at the street between the south side of the Bow River to 17 Avenue SW.

The plan would see improved sidewalks and streetlights, as well as aesthetic upgrades like trees.

The upgrades fall under the planning ideology described in the city’s Complete Streets framework.

“Complete Streets covers making a more livable city,” explained Oliver.

“Something that gives you more options to get around beside car – it helps create more livable communities.”

However the city is now consulting with residents on the upcoming budget and discussing the potential decrease in investment for public realm improvements.

Oliver said the plans for 8 Street are ready and are now sitting on a shelf, waiting for funding.

“It’s really disappointing to see this come out here and really scary that these programs are going to be cut now,” he said. “Especially after the city spent several years consulting on these programs.”

However, Rollin Stanley, general manager of Urban Strategy with the city, said a new approach to the budget process means it’s impossible to say for sure what projects will get funding at this time.

“There’s been no decision yet about what’s being funded and what’s not being funded. So it’s not right to say that anything is being cut,” he said.

Stanley explained that instead of doing budgets by department, the city will be doing them along service lines, because several departments can be involved in the delivery of a single project or service.

The city’s engagement website suggests it is considering reducing investment in new public realm improvements on projects such as Complete Streets and Main Streets.

“We’ve been asked to look at how we can be efficient at Main Streets and what our priorities would be at different funding levels, and that’s one of the things we’re looking at,” said Stanley.

Oliver described the process as a vacuum of information, and was urging concerned residents to turn up at a planned pop-up consultation at the Safeway on 8 Street SW on Monday from 3 to 7 p.m.. He said residents should be asking questions of the city employees for clarity on what’s getting funding.

“All these Main Streets programs could be shelved,” he said.

“Meanwhile the city has, it appears, nearly half a billion in capital set aside for infrastructure in new communities. That doesn’t seem to be part of the conversation here or the decision tradeoff,” he said.