The Halifax Regional Municipality’s plan to improve public transit and mobility on Bayers Road is causing an uproar among some residents of the Westmount subdivision, who say it will cause major disruptions to their daily commute.
City staff want to build new priority bus lanes on Bayers Road between Romans Avenue and Windsor Street.
The goal of the project is to encourage the use of public transit and improve the service’s reliability, but it comes with new restrictions that will prohibit vehicles from turning right from Bayers Road onto George Dauphinee Avenue and MicMac Street.
Westmount residents who attended a municipal information session on Wednesday night said the restrictions would force them to take lengthy detours around their neighbourhoods in order to get home.
“We’re going to be able to exit the subdivision but we can’t enter the subdivison,” said Eric Thomson, referring to George Dauphinee Avenue. “That’s a serious problem for us because Westmount only has three entrances and every one of them has something wrong with it. To lose the ability to turn right most hours of the day is an issue for us.”
“All of this is happening so people can get home faster that don’t live in Old Halifax,” added MicMac Street resident Gay Durnford.
“For us to get home now, we’re going to have to wait a couple lights in the (Halifax) Shopping Centre, and then usually at least three lights to be able to turn left going down Connaught Avenue, to then go over through Edgewood if it’s not backed up, and then get into your driveway.”
More than 200 people attended the meeting at the Halifax Forum, which saw some heated exchanges between residents, regional councillors and city planners.
While the removal of buses from general traffic lanes on Bayers Road is expected to improve vehicle flow, the municipality says the project will result in the loss of an outbound traffic lane on Bayers between Connaught Avenue and Windsor Street, which could increase congestion during rush hour.
On-street parking will also be prohibited during hours when the dedicated prioritized bus lanes are in effect, although a final decision hasn’t been made on that time period.
Donna Noddin of the Saint Catherine of Siena Church on Bayers Road, said she’s concerned about the church losing nearby on-street parking and four-and-a-half feet along its property line, in order to make room for the bus lanes.
“We are a growing community,” she told Global News. “Certainly it will be a huge impact. We’re worried about the elderly getting into our facilities, we’re worried about those with disabilities having enough street-parking, because this project will actually take away spaces from our parking lot.”
According to its website, the municipality has been in private talks with impacted land owners to purchase required property since last summer.
The project is part of the municipality’s Integrated Mobility Plan.
Cyclists will be allowed to use the new bus lanes when they’re completed, and both cyclists and pedestrians will be able to use a new multi-use path that will be added to the south side of Bayers, between Romans Avenue and George Dauphinee.
“I’m a big fan of the project, I like the other priority lanes that they’ve given buses around town,” said Jeff Bowden, a public transit user who lives in Halifax’s South End. “They have a similar project on Windmill right now and it’s been working really well, so I’d like to see more bus lanes in the city.”
Shawn Cleary, councillor for Halifax West Armdale, acknowledged the concerns of some of his Westmount constituents, but said the project strikes the best balance between everyone’s interests.
“In a couple of years it’s going to be part of a core that will allow us to do what we call bus rapid transit — even better transit throughout the city, especially to the suburban areas,” he explained. “We need to be financially and environmentally sustainable as a city, to get people out of cars and into buses and other forms of transportation.”
Construction is slated to begin this year between Connaught Avenue to Romans Avenue and there’s no timeline for the work between Connaught and Windsor Street.
A tender for the project is expected to go out in the next few months, and Halifax Transportation Engineer Mike Connors said the municipality is considering all feedback until then.