BC Hydro has approved funding for phase two of Houston’s Hwy. 16 Improvement Project, confirmed Gerald Pinchbeck, the district’s chief administrative officer.
After completing upgrades to the north side of Hwy. 16, the district has been seeking funding to upgrade the south side.
Phase two of the project is expected to cost about $750,000. It involves undergrounding overhead BC Hydro and Telus lines between Butler Avenue and Ninth Street, as well as pavement patching and repairs, backfill and soil remediation, and the replacement of street lights.
BC Hydro will be contributing about one third of the cost, and the district is planning to finance the remaining portion through surpluses from previous years, said Pinchbeck.
“We will be confirming a project start date with BC Hydro once all funding is approved,” he said.
In addition to the Hwy. 16 Improvement Project, the district has also been seeking funding to implement its Downtown Beautification Plan, which was adopted by council last December.
Pinchbeck said the district has applied for a grant and expects to find out if it has been approved within the next two months.
Developed by Urban Systems, the Downtown Beautification Plan identifies a number of challenges facing downtown and proposes solutions, including the construction of a community barn and plaza space that would be visible from the highway and act as a landmark anchor to the Poulton Avenue corridor.
Other recommendations to improve Houston’s appeal include modular seating, decorative hanging baskets and wall screens.
In addition, the plan envisions utilizing decorative crosswalks and thematic patterns sandblasted into the sidewalks as tools to enhance visitor experience in the downtown, as well as a way to lead pedestrians to key locations in Houston.
Council decided to revitalize the downtown area and carry out improvements to the Hwy. 16 corridor after West Fraser closed its Houston Forest Products mill operation in 2014, causing the loss of 225 jobs and over $400,000 in property tax revenues – about 10 per cent of the district’s total tax revenue.
Last month the province announced that northern local governments would receive $100 million to improve their infrastructure. Municipalities with populations fewer than 10,000 people will receive between $1 million and $6 million.
When asked how the district plans to use those funds, Pinchbeck said a decision has not yet been made.
“A final decision will be made upon confirmation of final distribution amounts from the province.”