HRM Council take heed – Bayers Road expansion criticized

HALIFAX – “In HRM, we have a traffic problem. We need to get people out of their cars,” one HRM resident succinctly surmised at the public meeting regarding the potential widening of Bayers Road held Wednesday evening.

“Let’s put money into sustainable, accessible, community-building strategies” which include transit and active transit routes, was the overwhelming message voiced by the 300 or so citizens that attended the public meeting. They demanded that the widening be removed from the Road Network Functional Plan, which is due to be approved by Council later this month.

To be fair, about a dozen people were pro-widening, clapping at the statement that “putting in a thoroughfare is making our tax dollars work.”

Peninsular Council members (Jennifer Watts, Dawn Sloane, Sue Uteck, and Jerry Blumenthal) are encouraging the public to pressure all Councilors to “drop the Bayers Road widening from the planned project column of the document,” and further to rethink HRM’s transportation strategy. A simple way to do this is to write a note to clerks@halifax.ca with your message and a request to distribute to all Councillors and the Mayor.

This widening of Bayers Road is contingent on the Provincial widening of Highways 102 and 107. Howard Epstein, MLA Halifax-Chebucto, said he’s been checking, and these highways widening are not in the current five year plan, but as they are scheduled for 2014 the public needs to keep up the pressure on Provincial decision makers as well. “A more compact urban form is central to our Regional Plan, and widening roads runs counter to this,” Epstein stated. “The cost-benefit analysis does not add up in favour of widening roads.”

If Council approves the Road Network Functional Plan with the Bayers Road widening still in the ‘planned project’ column, HRM will have to find the $21 million needed to widen the road from Windsor Street to the CN overpass leading to Highway 102. They will purchase properties on the north side of Bayers Road between Oxford St. and Connaught Ave., and extend the road 2 to 5 meters onto those properties. A handful of houses will be demolished, including a low-income apartment building. HRM owns two of these properties already.

For more thoughts on what a sustainable transit system in HRM might look like, a number of community groups have put forth plans and ideas, including the EAC-housed OurHRM, Fusion, and the Planning and Design Centre. For those interested, keep your ears open for the HRM public meeting on public transit this fall.

Jayme Melrose reads poetry to random strangers, knows most of the edible wild plants around our local swimming holes, and has a deep commitment to hilarity. She practices permaculture and ecological landscape design in Halifax through her business Garden Doula.

Photo by WilsonRy.