Two City of St. John’s departments have differing views on how a staff position left vacant for several months is affecting the management of its cycling master plan.
According to a memo deputy city manager for community services Jill Brewer sent councillors last week, little work on the plan has been completed during the last few months. Brewer said this is partially due to the traffic engineer position having been left vacant for several months.
According to the city, the last traffic engineer left the position in August 2013. It was advertised internally and externally, but a city spokeswoman said a suitable candidate has not been identified. The traffic engineer typically works in the Planning, Development and Engineering Department.
The position is responsible for long-range planning on transportation and mobility issues in the city. That work includes managing the cycling master plan. Capital projects linked to the plan in Phase 1 have been completed, but that’s not the case for its second phase.
The city is contractually committed to complete that phase through a funding agreement involving three levels of government. Approximately $2.7 million has been spent on implementing the plan to date.
In a statement released to The Telegram, the city spokeswoman said the Planning, Development and Engineering Department “feels that the vacancy has had little impact on progress” concerning the cycling master plan.
Coun. Bernard Davis, chairman of the community services committee, also downplayed the impact of the job vacancy when he spoke with The Telegram Thursday.
“We don’t believe that the traffic engineer (vacancy) has had any impact on slowing this process down, because each of these phases had timelines associated with them,” said the Ward 4 councillor. “For instance, Phase 2 was to be completed between years three and seven. In that timeframe, we’re in year five right now. We’re exactly where we thought we’d be at this point in the whole process.”
He did note the last person to hold the traffic engineer position was also the chair of the cycling master plan committee. A new chairperson is still not in place.
“The cycling committee hasn’t met as much as we would like, but at the end of the day, we’re working at getting that going again.”
Meanwhile, the city is reviewing whether it will readvertise the position or use consultants to address the traffic engineer’s duties.
“No transportation-related activities have been left incomplete since the position went vacant. Either the work has been completed in-house or the city has hired consultants to complete the work,” said the spokeswoman, noting consultants were hired to complete the MUN traffic study.
As for the cycling master plan, the Planning, Development and Engineering Department will review the feasibility of dedicated cycling lanes on specific streets and the contractual obligations that need to be fulfilled in the implementation of the plan.
Davis said the remaining $2 million allocated for spending is jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments.