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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Now Closed – Saint John Harbour Passage

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SAINT JOHN – It’s been a mixed bag here in the Port City lately. Tuesday marked the 225th anniversary of the incorporation of Canada’s ‘original city’; Commercial Properties presented a town clock at the corner of King & Prince William streets, with organizers putting on a gala celebration at Harbour Station marking the beginning of an eight month extravaganza.

The day before the festivities, marked the beginning of $35 million worth of construction work on the Saint John Harbour Bridge. Harbour Passage, the pedestrian route between the North End and West Side of the city and Uptown, is to be effectively closed this summer, autumn & next year (photos here). See you in 2012!

At a community information session held 4 days before construction started, dozens of Saint John citizens took aim at the plan to strip away their recreational and commuter use of the Passage. Overflowing with voices asking for a safe alternative route, Ken Anthony, general manager of the bridge authority, said they’ve been working with the City and the Waterfront Development Corporation towards a route “that’s number one, not too inconvenient and number two, is still fairly safe from traffic”. Nevertheless, the Alternative Route suggests that safety from traffic wasn’t a priority issue. Local business owner Jeff Roach’s blog post takes a look at this. How safe would you feel biking on/walking along a highway?

Although the transformation of Main Street into a 6 lane through-way took place decades ago, it continues to separate The North End & West Side neighbourhoods from Uptown; the Harbour Passage was a (partial) successful remediation. I suggest partial, only on the hopes that Main Street (the highway) is transformed back into Main Street (the original).

I’m certain various alternatives such as safety nets under the bridge were considered and yet not implemented; if there was a highway running below the bridge, would we get the same result? A minor inconvenience this is not… it’s closing for two years, and even then the vocal outrage was somehow ‘unexpected‘? The lack of consultation leaves a bitter taste for the hundreds if not thousands of people using the trail.

As the repair work on the bridge progresses, lane reductions don’t feel nearly the same as walking up to a chain link fence.

Photograph by (c) Cindy Wilson/Telegraph-Journal – Joggers along Harbour passage on a sunny afternoon.



  1. I feel very little concern from city hall or council when it comes to the opinions of people. It keeps bragging about it’s openness but when action is required about our concerns (we don’t seem to matter) it goes on with no thought about our feelings. Harbour Passage needs to stay accessible. Disabled people use it frequently but no consideration seemed to be expressed about what they could use as alternatives. Where oh where is their compassion (that goes for any group).
    When God was handing out brains they thought he said trains and didn’t want any. I guess thatis why we have this mess.

  2. In all honesty I understand that they want to be safe, but perhaps some perspective is in order. As a native Saint Johner, I have used harbor passage numerous times. I have also used the area at the HMCS Brunswicker as a member of the Navy. Numerous times while under that bridge I have come under assault from snowplows pushing heaps, upon piles of snow and ice to come down and hit us in the head, our cars, etc. This was done without ANY regard for safety. Yet those areas remain open. 
    Those in charge are being blatently ignorant of the situation. Plowing the roads is necessary but it becomes a hassle when having to think of peoples safety.
    How does this tie in?
    Well we should question why are they ignoring something that happens every few days in the winter months (which as we all know lasts quite a long time in our part of the world), yet making something like controlled construction a high priority. LESS debris is going to be falling from the bridge, if any at all. Despite what they may portray, they aren’t simply going to be launching cement, debris, hammers and hardhats off the bridge…… not like they do with heavy snow and hard ice.
    If there are alternatives, they should be sought and followed through with. It is honestly one of the better things the city has going for it, and I suspect we may feel the hit in a couple years as cruise ship visitors give lesser reviews than they may have.
    It’s a beautiful location and gem to the harbor front, seek the alternatives….. open it back up.