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Halifax to widen some sidewalks as part of new mobility response plan

Halifax officials are set to provide an update on the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Halifax Regional Municipality is changing up some of the municipality’s streets, widening some sidewalks and introducing temporary loading spots in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jacques Dubé, the chief administrative officer for the municipality, announced the first steps of the municipality’s COVID-19 Mobility Response Plan on Monday.

The sidewalks on both sides of Spring Garden Road between South Park Street and Queen Street will be widened temporarily by removing parking and loading spaces.

READ MORE: Business groups call for better pedestrian, patio access on some Halifax streets during COVID-19

The sidewalk on the north side of Quinpool Road between Quingate Place and Monastery Lane will also be widened by removing parking and loading spaces.

Pylons and barricades will help protect the expanded sidewalk space.

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Dubé said the municipality has spent $65,000 on pylons and barricades in order to fulfill their anticipated needs over the next few months.

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Traffic signal crossings are also being modified to reduce wait times in order to encourage people to keep moving.

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The municipality is also introducing temporary loading zones throughout Halifax and Dartmouth to allow businesses to safely load and unload goods.

READ MORE: Handwashing stations to be added to porta-potties installed at Halifax Central Library

Work on the newly announced changes will get started immediately and be finished by the end of the week.

As this is only the first stage of the plan, Dubé said more changes will be coming as part of the “made-in-Halifax solution.”

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The second phase could be announced within the next few weeks and then be implemented after that, Dubé said.

Mayor Mike Savage said the municipality is consulting with business improvement districts and businesses in order to help them receive business.

“There is a certain type of thing we have come to expect in Halifax… I think it’s really important to be open to ideas from the (business improvement districts),” said Savage

READ MORE: COVID-19 forces Halifax council to make severe budget cuts during economic downturn

The municipality is already facing a series of tough decisions as a result of the pandemic, which has stalled tax collection and multiple forms of income for the municipality.

Municipal councillors continue to look for $85 million in budget cuts that are needed.

Forecasts have shown the municipality will see a $44-million shortfall this year with $20 million of that coming directly from a loss of transit revenue.

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Since the pandemic hit, transit has offered free services. Parking fees have also been waived, although they are set to resume on June 1.

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Residential and commercial tax payments have also been deferred and are estimated to result in a $188-million economic shortfall that won’t be immediately recovered by the municipality, resulting in cash flow shortages.

READ MORE: Amid mass layoffs, Halifax mayor and councillor take COVID-19 paycuts

The municipality is looking to secure a short-term loan of $188 million from the Nova Scotia government. The loan has a three-year repayment period with an interest rate of 1.1 per cent, which council will need to approve first.

In April, HRM laid off more than 1,400 casual, seasonal and part-time workers.