Transportation plan may be a no go
Capital budget projects come in at an estimated cost of $144.8 million for 2019-20
The idea of commuter rail possibly happening in Halifax has been on and off the rails for the past few years, but it’s never been closer to reality. The details aren’t public, but the councillor leading the charge says commuter rail in Halifax has never been closer to a reality.
Regional council received an in-camera update on commuter rail at its meeting on Tuesday. The discussion lasted just over an hour behind closed doors. Because it was just an information report, there was no vote on the subject. Council voted in 2016 to explore the idea of a partnership with Via Rail to create a commuter rail system taking passengers from Windsor Junction to downtown Halifax, with stops along the way in Bedford and elsewhere, on tracks owned by Canadian National Railway.
The Via proposal, which was unsolicited, followed a 2015 feasibility study that said commuter rail was too expensive, with initial costs of between $36 and $72 million in addition to annual operating costs of $8 million. By the numbers, the municipality can’t afford to implement the ambitious transportation plan council approved last year.
According to advocates, it can’t afford not to.
Regional council’s committee of the whole was set to debate Halifax’s preliminary 2019-20 capital budget on Tuesday, but deferred the discussion to January to give councillors time to dig into the numbers and ask questions of municipal staffers.
The capital budget, separate from the municipality’s operating budget, is a list of projects that Halifax will spend money on next year. Those projects add up to $144.8 million, up from Among the projects unfunded in the preliminary 2019-20 capital budget is $6.35 million in active transportation infrastructure.
$128.6 million this year.
But there’s another $21.8 million in projects that can’t be accommodated without budget cuts or a tax hike — and that’s on top of the tax hike needed to cover the operating budget, which staff recommend to be 2.9 per cent to the average tax bill.
Of that $21.8 million, about
half represents projects linked to the Integrated Mobility Plan (IMP), the ambitious transportation plan unanimously approved by regional council one year ago Wednesday.
The overarching goal of the IMP is to reduce the percentage of Haligonians commuting by car every day. WWW.THESTAR.COM
In 2014, Halifax set a goal to reduce that number to a maximum of 70 per cent.
Between 2006 and 2011, according to Statistics Canada, that number went up — from
75 to 77 per cent — and it remained high, at 77.7 per cent, in 2016.
The total cost of the IMP will add up to $190 million by the time it’s fully implemented, but the final report on the plan said those projects will save the municipality from having to spend $750 million on roads to accommodate more and more vehicles.
Among the projects unfunded in the preliminary
2019-2020 capital budget is $6.35 million in active transportation infrastructure — all ages and abilities (AAA) cycling lanes and sidewalks.
Commuter rail was the topic of discussion behind closed doors at regional council