Accessibility advocates are voicing concern over Nova Scotia’s plan to build a new parkade as part of the QEII New Generation project.
The province announced on Thursday that it has approved $29.5 million in funding for QEII’s parking strategy, which includes the construction of a parkade across from the Halifax Infirmary site on Summer Street.
The current parkade on Robie Street will remain open while the new parkade is being constructed before eventually facing the wrecking ball. The parkade’s demolition will make space for a new inpatient centre, with hospital beds and operating rooms, to be built as part of the hospital’s expansion.
“We got approval to move ahead because we need to start preparing for the construction of the new facility which will involve the removal of the existing parkade,” said Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Lloyd Hines.
Accessibility questions over location of new parkade
The current Robie Street parkade was built in 2003 and is practically adjoined to the Halifax Infirmary site, making it easily accessible for persons with mobility issues.
Paul Vienneau is a wheelchair user and is questioning why another location wasn’t considered for the inpatient site, considering the current parkade also allows access to the hospital.
Placing the parkade on Summer Street changes the equation, Vienneau said, and forces people to cross a busy Halifax street.
“They’re going to tear down a perfectly workable and very adequate parking situation, with a parking structure that’s almost attached to the building,” Vienneau said, “which creates a whole bunch of other problems, not only in the winter but in rain.
“There’s no direct crossing spot from that parking lot.”
Hines acknowledges accessibility issues will have to be considered by the successful parkade project bidder.
“We’re looking at ways to mitigate that. If you look at the parking currently, it’s pretty ideal but that is where the new inpatient facility will be going, which is a major component of the rebuild,” Hines said.
Vienneau says accessibility is a human right and needs to be part of the design phase of any construction project — even if that involves spending extra money, like building a pedestrian bridge.
“We need to encourage people to take care of their health issues and make it safe to cross from the museum parking lot,” he said.