‘This is the worst year by far’

Metro talks chaos with road users

Metro Canada (Halifax) - - NEWS - Zane Wood­ford Metro | Hal­i­fax

Com­mutes of more than an hour have be­come more com­mon for driv­ers in Hal­i­fax this fall, and the mu­nic­i­pal­ity knows it’s been no cake­walk, but says it’ll all be over soon.

“The ma­jor­ity of the con­ges­tion would def­i­nitely at this point be the St. Mar­garet’s Bay Road pro­ject in co-or­di­na­tion with the Hal­i­fax Wa­ter projects,” Hal­i­fax Re­gional Mu­nic­i­pal­ity spokesman Nick Ritcey said in an in­ter­view.

Ritcey said there were more than 200 cap­i­tal projects this year, and an­other 200 op­er­a­tional and re­pair projects wrap­ping up in early Novem­ber.

In the case of St. Mar­garet’s Bay Road, Ritcey said there was a de­lay of a few weeks be­cause of “un­fore­seen un­der­ground wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture” — pipes that weren’t mapped — but the work will be com­plete by the end of the month.

He called it a “full-meal deal road con­struc­tion pro­ject,” with new side­walks, paving, wa­ter main, storm sewer, and gut­ters.

“It’s un­for­tu­nate that there’s some ex­tra con­ges­tion and traf­fic, but it’s def­i­nitely go­ing to pay off in the long run with re­ally great new roads and in­fra­struc­ture, and the fact that we don’t have to spend the money do­ing it twice,” Ritcey said.

“We just ask that peo­ple are pa­tient for the next cou­ple weeks while they wrap up, but then peo­ple will be able to en­joy the nice new roads, and not hit any pot­holes.”

Metro knows the com­mute has been tough for driv­ers, so we asked a two other road users about their ex­pe­ri­ence this con­struc­tion sea­son: ‘Topic of con­cern’ for bus driv­ers

Con­struc­tion sea­son has been rough on Hal­i­fax Tran­sit driv­ers this year, ac­cord­ing to their union head.

“It’s a topic of con­cern for us,” Amal­ga­mated Tran­sit Union Lo­cal 508 pres­i­dent Ken Wil­son said in an in­ter­view. “This is the worst year by far.”

Wil­son said the com­bi­na­tion of con­struc­tion shut­ting down St. Mar­garet’s Bay Road and the on­go­ing Big Lift pro­ject on the Macdonald Bridge, along with con­struc­tion on “ev­ery other street” has made get­ting a bus around the mu­nic­i­pal­ity more dif­fi­cult than in years past.

“I would think any type of con­struc­tion pro­ject on a ma­jor artery way that starts in June at least should be able to be open by peak-time traf­fic at the start of the year,” Wil­son said of the St. Mar­garet’s Bay Road con­struc­tion.

“I think that was a colos­sal mis­take, who­ever agreed to do the Bay Road the way they did it.”

The big de­lays, along with what Wil­son calls “stag­nant” rid­er­ship num­bers, show the need for tran­sit pri­or­ity lanes or high-oc­cu­pancy ve­hi­cle (HOV) lanes, in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.

“HOV lanes on the Bed­ford High­way, Bay­ers Road would al­le­vi­ate a lot of this late­ness for op­er­a­tors,” Wil­son said.

“If we can’t com­pete with the car, we’re go­ing to fail.” When traf­fic snarls, cy­clists roll on by

De­spite some dif­fi­culty with con­struc­tion sea­son, the direc­tor of a lo­cal cy­cling ad­vo­cacy group says long traf­fic de­lays have more peo­ple opt­ing to com­mute on two wheels.

“We’ve seen a lot of peo­ple take up rid­ing a bike dur­ing the con­struc­tion phase be­cause it’s just so much quicker to be able to get to work or get to where you want to go on a bike than it has been sit­ting in a car for hours,” Kelsey Lane, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Hal­i­fax Cy­cling Coali­tion, said in an in­ter­view.

“It’s ac­tu­ally been a re­ally nice al­ter­na­tive in some ways, even though there are chal­lenges with the pave­ment and the rough treat­ment of the in­ter­sec­tions dur­ing con­struc­tion, and a lit­tle bit of a dis­re­gard for bike lanes and bike traf­fic dur­ing this time.”

Lane said bike lanes were of­ten “for­got­ten about,” or left un­painted this sum­mer, push­ing cy­clists into the road­way and cre­at­ing con­fu­sion for mo­torists. One ex­am­ple she cited is when the Hol­lis Street bike lane was cut off in front of the Maple con­struc­tion pro­ject.

“Cer­tainly when the lane nar­rows, there’s more con­fu­sion around where a cy­clist is sup­posed to be on a street that’s ex­pe­ri­enc­ing con­struc­tion,” she said.

“It has been dif­fi­cult.”

Jeff Harper/metro

Ken Wil­son.

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