It’s been a long, frustrating two years for Kurt Bulger.
As one of the owners of Jennifer’s of Nova Scotia on Spring Garden Road in Halifax, his business has taken a number of hits. Like many others, the pandemic has had a significant impact. Then came construction that shut down the street for much of the year.
More recently, the latest Spring Garden streetscaping project has been the source of his frustration.
“It’s a dog’s breakfast,” said Bulger. “There’s so much visual clutter down here right now. I’ve been coming down here for 40 years and I have no idea what’s going on anymore.”
As of Monday, Spring Garden Road from Queen Street to South Park Street is open only to buses, cyclists and pedestrians from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Cars, taxis and Ubers are not permitted. The purpose is to make buses more reliable and help with pedestrian traffic.
But Bulger worries about how the traffic restrictions will be enforced and whether those in the city will follow the rules.
“It’s going to be a long learning curve,” he said. “What happens when tourists visit town? They don’t know the rules. You go down to South Park right now, there are so many signs, you don’t know if you’re supposed to go left, right, up or down.”
Sue Uteck, president of the Spring Garden Business Association, is also concerned about the pilot project and the signage that’s been put in place.
“I think it is going to be very confusing as a tourist,” she said. “For this initial orientation period, we should have used construction signage … flashing at either end.”
The transit-priority corridor is a first for Halifax. Elora Wilkinson, project manager of the Spring Garden Road Project, says she doesn’t expect changes to happen to drivers’ habits overnight.
“This a substantial change to a major street that has a lot of different uses,” she says. “It’s going to take time for that education and enforcement to make its way through the corridor.”
Monday morning, Halifax Regional Police officers were on hand to block the road to vehicles trying to enter. They were also giving motorists pamphlets explaining the new rules.
“Our first approach is always education, but we will be using enforcement as necessary,” said Const. Nicolas Gagnon, acting public information officer for Halifax Regional Police.
As for when punitive enforcement will begin, Wilkinson says that remains to be seen.
“We will at some point need to start enforcing, but the goal is to try and stay away from that as much as possible,” she said.
Wilkson added that since it’s a pilot project, they’ll be able to cancel it at any time during the year if they deem the project ineffective. She also says they have the resources to make adjustments throughout the year.
As for Bulger, he hopes it doesn’t result in another hit to his already impacted business.
“I’m not sure what criteria they’re using to see whether it’s a success or not,” he said. “There’s been so many changes now, we’re just scrambling to keep our heads above water.”