Plans are in the works to add a new commuter ferry between Bedford and Halifax to the city’s transit fleet, officials announced Thursday morning.
The new ferry route will run between a new terminal at Mill Cove and the existing terminal on the Halifax waterfront.
All three levels of government are funding a $3.3 million study to look at concept design for a new terminal building, site access and site design.
The federal government has earmarked about $1.4 million for the project, while the province is committing $1.1 million. Halifax Regional Municipality will contribute $917,000.
During the announcement, deputy premier Kelly Regan said people having been calling for a ferry in the area for years.
“I know Bedford residents are keen to have an alternative to using roads to get into Halifax and back home again,” she said.
Regan said it will be an electric ferry and the transit terminal will be a net-zero, energy efficient building.
“It will provide our province with a clean option to safely and efficiently transport the growing number of residents here in the communities on the Bedford basin to and from the downtown Halifax core year-round,” she said.
Reports and a concept design of the new terminal, along with the retrofit design of the current Halifax terminal, are expected in early 2022, according to the province. More detailed design and construction will begin following that.
Halifax MP Andy Fillmore said the new ferry will help reduce congestion on the busy Bedford Highway and cut down on commuting times.
“This is exactly in the sweet spot of what the federal infrastructure plan is trying to achieve: stronger communities, better health and livability outcomes, reducing emissions, and creating more inclusive communities where you don’t have to have the choice to own a car thrust upon you,” he said.
“Instead, you can rely on real transit options.”
‘Huge’ payback, says mayor
The city had been considering adding additional ferry routes under its rapid transit strategy, which aims to help people move around the city faster and more efficiently.
Halifax Mayor Mike Savage told reporters Thursday that the city previously had hopes for a commuter rail from Bedford, but when it became clear that wasn’t feasible, it moved to this option.
This would be the first electric ferry for Halifax Transit and the city aims to electrify 50 per cent of its bus fleet by 2028, according to the transit strategy.
“We’ve made a commitment in Halifax that we want to be net-zero in our municipal operations by 2030, and that means getting off traditional diesel buses and ferries,” he said.
He said the new ferry would had positive impacts on the economy, the environment and the road system.
“As people are moving to Halifax … one of the fastest-growing cities in the country, how we move people, and also how we transport goods, is going to be more important than ever,” he said.
“We have to have viable options, and we have to accept the fact that it’s going to cost something. But the payback is huge.”
The rapid transit strategy also suggests two other new ferry terminals at Larry Uteck and Shannon Park. Savage said those were still under consideration.
There are currently two other Halifax Transit ferry routes, connecting the Halifax ferry terminal to the Alderney and Woodside terminals across the harbour in Dartmouth.
‘Bring on the ferry’
The announcement came as welcome news to Jarrod Pettipas, who lives in Bedford and works in downtown Halifax
“Right now I drive, and it’s not fun, honestly,” he said.
Between him and his wife, they spend about $400 per month on parking, so he looks forward to having a better option.
“This could be a real win for us,” said Pettipas. “Bring on the ferry.”
Anita and John Conohan are also looking forward to having a ferry in Bedford. The couple, who live close to where the terminal will be, said they have been waiting for one for a long time.
“So excited, can’t wait,” said Anita.
John said a lot of people in their community don’t drive, so the ferry would be a good alternative.
“It’ll be immense,” he said. “The older people can get to go downtown, to shop, to enjoy restaurants down there.”
Anita added: “And not worry about traffic, or parking down there. It’s just going to be awesome.”
Tim Outhit, Halifax’s deputy mayor and the councillor for the Bedford area, said the addition of a ferry in his district will be “wonderful.”
He said the new terminal will also act as a community hub, and may also include a library and meeting spaces.
Outhit said he looks forward to having additional ferry routes added at some point in the future to create a “network of ferries” throughout the city.
“It’s the beginning of something great and it will change how we commute,” he said.
— With files from Alicia Draus.