A project that will make it easier for cyclists to access the Macdonald bridge is estimated to cost $12.7 million, over double the estimate from five years ago.
Council approved the increase at their meeting on Tuesday. The proposal passed 14 to two, with Coun. David Hendsbee and Coun. Trish Purdy opposed.
When the project was first approved in 2017, the estimated cost was $5.6 million.
“Costs have been increasing dramatically,” David MacIsaac, manager of active transportation for Halifax Regional Municipality, said during the meeting. He said that is a factor in the cost increase for the Macdonald bridge project.
Despite the increase in cost, MacIsaac said something needs to be done on the Macdonald bridge bikeway, though the proposed project may not be the correct solution. His department will review the project to make sure the flyover is the best solution and explore other options.
“This is a significant connection,” MacIsaac said, “if you’re bicycling right now, there may not be a worse place to ride a bike.”
The proposed project is phase two of the overall Macdonald bridge bikeway, which includes a flyover on the Halifax side that would connect the existing bridge bikeway to Gottingen Street, with an additional bike lane continuing to Northwood Crescent.
Phase one of the project included construction of bike lanes at the Wyse Road intersection on the Dartmouth side of the bridge. Phase one is expected to be completed by the end of 2022, as the installation of bike signals was delayed due to supply chain issues.
The flyover on the Halifax side will be the most expensive part of the project, though there are several transit improvements that will add to the cost.
One of the proposed transit improvements would see the route of the No. 1 bus moved from Barrington Street to Gottingen Street, which would require the construction of a new bus stop, along with transit priority on Gottingen.
Hendsbee is concerned about the escalating costs of the bikeway.
“I think that the bridge commission needs to re-evaluate its position on its use of its trailways on the bridge,” said Hendsbee.
Currently, the Macdonald bridge is pedestrian-only on the south side and cyclist-only on the north side. Hendsbee suggests opening sides for everyone to access.
“Instead of having cyclists on one side, pedestrians on the other, it’s time to open it up. Let them share,” Hendsbee said. He said that would make the expensive flyover unnecessary.
The existing Macdonald bridge bikeway was constructed as part of a project to add a third lane to the bridge before the improved bikeway plan was approved in 2017. However, as both MacIsaac and Coun. Waye Mason said, the existing bikeway is difficult to access.
“This is a great place to bike,” said Mason, “you know what’s not awesome? Biking up the Macdonald bridge. It’s the worst.”
In order to access the current bikeway, cyclists have to descend North Street to Barrington Street before making a sharp turn onto the bikeway and climbing back up the hill to the bridge deck.
“The only way to tackle this properly is new infrastructure,” said Coun. Shawn Cleary.
Cleary says the Macdonald bridge bikeway is a critical piece to connect Halifax and Dartmouth as one big regional municipality.
“This has to happen,” said Cleary.
The Halifax side of Macdonald bridge bikeway is now scheduled to be completed by 2024.
About the author
Hannah Marais is a fourth-year journalism student and a reporter for the Signal. When she's not out reporting, she's probably cycling, thinking...