HRM’s Next Big Bad Idea – Widening Bayers Road

This article is kindly cross-posted from the Halifax Media Co-op. Check out the original here.

HALIFAX – Bedford’s gain will be Bayers Road’s (and the taxpayer’s) pain. And the pain will be considerable.

This was the warning that the HRM Peninsula Community Council provided at a public meeting at City Hall on Monday night.

Councillors Jennifer Watt and Jerry Blumenthal provided an update on a Bayers Road widening project that will cost at least $16 million (a 2009 estimate), not counting the cost of buying homes and properties. This would add at least $5 million, Watts said.

“And construction could be several times that much, given the escalating costs of asphalt and concrete,” she said. The recent Washmill underpass project, originally projected to cost $10 million, came in $8 million over budget.

Watts said that an estimated 90 properties would be affected, in whole or in part.  Homes will be lost and front yards carved up. Three apartment buildings near Connaught Avenue and Bayers Road will be leveled, Blumenthal said.

“It seems that staff are going for a hugely expensive option that will be very negative for the Bayers Road neighbourhoods,” Watts said.

Among citizens speaking at the meeting, local restaurateur David Cheung asked: “Why disrupt and tear up the neighbourhood for a few minutes saved at rush hour? What happens after the rush hour?”

Watts said that this project has long been part of HRM planning despite consistent resident opposition. “Large developments in Bedford West and Bedford South have been based on these new residents using Bayers Road to get downtown,” she said.

The project calls for the two-lane Bayers Road to be widened to five-to-six lanes between the CN overpass and Connaught Avenue and to four lanes between Connaught Avenue and Windsor Street.

And once at Windsor, traffic will then try Gottingen, Agricola and other North End streets “even more aggressively than now to find another way to downtown,” said two North End business representatives.

“This will cost us millions of dollars to make Halifax a highway corridor,” said Blumenthal whose district encompasses the north side of Bayers Road.  He and local residents have opposed this “bad idea” for decades, he said.

Councillor Dawn Sloane, who lived on nearby Connolly Street for 23 years, said the project “is not looking at the quality of life for every person in the neighbourhood.” She said the proposed plan was not submitted to HRM’s Environmental and Sustainability Standing Committee. “It went straight to Transportation (Standing Committee).”

Janet Stevenson said it’s clear that consultants at a 2009 public meeting that opposed the widening “didn’t learn anything and failed to seriously consult with the people affected.  Just because some planner thought it was a good idea in 1994, doesn’t mean we have to stick with it.”

She urged councillors to “work with your residents to see how it can be stopped.”

A Chebucto Road resident said millions were spent on the road widening there and little was accomplished except disruption to the neighbourhood and more speeding during off-peak hours.

Councillor Sue Uteck, the fourth member of the Peninsula Community Council, was out of town.

HRM Regional Council will discuss the Road Network Functional Plan [PDF] at Committee of the Whole on September 13, Watts said. This plan, and related provincial Highway 102 Corridor projects to cost at least $276 million more (not counting the purchase of part or all of a further 42 more properties) will have enormous and irreversible effects on Halifax, she said.

“It is concerning that if the Plan is passed as recommended by staff then the Bayers Road widening proposal will be further confirmed as a logical future step in the implementation of the Plan,” she said.

Throughout the “planning,” Watts said, active transportation options that could work for everyone have been barely considered.

The Bayers Rd/Highway 102 Corridor Study [PDF] will come to the Transportation Standing Committee on September 23 but it is unclear when it will be discussed at Regional Council.

Photo by William Matheson.

Editorial Note: The Ecology Action Centre is circulating a petition to ‘Explore all options before accepting a transportation reserve for Bayers Road in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Click here.

7 comments

  1. Why have we not discussed a commuter train from outlying areas to down town or revamping Metro Transit services in these areas to reduce traffic? Why does Halifax put cars before neighbourhoods? 

  2. The reality is that this is long overdue and badly needed. HRM has built all these suburban areas up, sold people on the idea of living in Kingswood and Bedford, and then given them a 1950s way to get to work every day. I feel for the residents but it’s not like they didn’t know this would happen eventually. Time to bite the bullet, get it done, and move forward. I challenge the councillors quoted in this article to think for just once about the good of the city as a whole and not just the usual parochial stuff they use every time to stifle progress in this town.

  3. @Keith P.

    Widening the road IS a 1950s means of planning, though. Traffic will fill it up and we’ll just need to widen it again. This sort of thinking just enables an endless cycle of gridlock and road construction to (temporarily) alleviate it.

    People live all along this street, and they’ll now find themselves living alongside what amounts to a highway. If you lived on Bayers you wouldn’t find the issue so parochial.

    Halifax has a terrible transit system. Creating an effective regional commuter network would alleviate a lot of traffic strain. Not to mention increasing residential  density in the core, and establishing more places to work outside the core. THAT’S progress.

  4. Hey Keith. Amalgamation didn’t take place until the late 90s. Those places grew up all on their own. HRM didn’t make anybody live out there for it didn’t yet exist.

    Here is the prescription: live closer to where you work, build a real higher order transit network (and I don’t mean buses-real rail), and give up your car. If you choose to live in Bedford and work in downtown, that is your choice, but don’t expect those neighbourhoods you drive through to role over and give up their quality of life so you can shave off your commute time. Its selfish and shortsighted.

  5. “Bedford’s gain” is a pyrrhic victory. Widening Bayers Road will make life in adjacent neighbourhoods less enjoyable, healthy, and safe, that much is certain. But as an instrument of car-oriented development, the arterial highway always has social, health, and environmental impacts well beyond the neighbourhood level.

    By further locking Halifax into car-dependence, bloating Bayers Road with more metal cocoons will indirectly support obesity, high blood pressure, routine traffic casualties, and ever more sprawl with its associated effects on water quality and biodiversity.

    Keith P: There is no reality “that this is long overdue and badly needed.” The positive loop between low-density bedroom communities, car-use, and road expansion is a political construction that was established when Halifax was first re-assembled around car use. The “good” of our city surely lies in a mobility system that takes a longer view than building up traffic sewers.

  6. maybe instead of widening bayers road, install reversible lanes like chebucto, Herring cove and the macdonald bridge. At peak hours: AM- 3 in, 1 out PM-3 out, 1 in. Could that not work? It would be from connaught to the bi hi, and the bi hi should stay four lanes between bayers road and joe howe. The on ramp from joe howe will merge to become a third lane outbound, and the third lane inbound will be the exit ramp to joe howe. where bayers road merges with the bi hi, you shouldn’t have to merge in am rush hour as it would be 3 lanes inbound. Same thing outbound, bayers would split with 2 lanes left starting the bi hi, and one lane keeping right for local traffic.

    In conclusion, bayers road stays the same width as present with reversing lanes. The overpass of the bi hi over joe howe stays the same width at 4 lanes, 2in,2out. And then the highway would be six lanes where there are four lanes now, and eight lanes where there are six lanes now. Basically adding another lane in each direction on the bi hi to the bedford highway/NS 101 exit. This way, it doesn’t affect people living along bayers road, and there is less congestion. WIN-WIN!! Ps, i live in bedford, and im thinking of the people who live on bayers road

  7. i also think hwy 102 should have been extended to the MacKay Bridge and also gone around dartmouth, and back across to the rail cut, across NW Arm, and connected to NW Arm Dr. making it a full ring road around the city’s core. It’s too late to do that now though

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