Proposed Bayers Road expansion will make it harder to get home, say Westmount residents
HRM is preparing to widen Bayers Road for bus lanes to improve transit times
January 30, 2020, 10:07 am ASTLast Updated: January 30, 2020, 11:33 am
Residents of a neighbourhood in the West End of Halifax are upset with the detailed design for an upcoming construction project on Bayers Road.
The proposed construction will widen Bayers Road between Romans Avenue and Windsor Street in an effort to give buses priority and relieve congestion on the busy strip.
The first part of the two-phase project is planned to take place some time in the coming months, between Romans and Connaught avenues. There will be two new priority bus lanes added, one in each direction, to expand the total number of lanes on that stretch of road from four to six.
Some residents upset
The bus lanes on Bayers Road will come with new restrictions on right turns onto Micmac Street and George Dauphinee Avenue. Some residents of the Westmount community, which connects to Bayers Road via George Dauphinee Avenue, feel these restrictions will make it more difficult and dangerous for them to get home.
At Maritime Hall in the Halifax Forum on Wednesday evening, Halifax Regional Municipality hosted an open house information session on the project. Many Westmount residents showed up to voice their displeasure with the plan.
Eric Thompson was one of them. A lifelong resident of Westmount, he’s concerned that cutting off an entrance to the community will increase traffic and congestion around Westmount Elementary School and other parts of the neighbourhood.
“It’s going to force people to take alternate routes now through the subdivision to get home,” he said. “This will have a marked impact on the safety of the children of the subdivision, the residents of the subdivision.”
Two Westmount entrances will remain if the plan goes through. Thompson said both his parents have been in accidents at the Chebucto entrance, while entering from Almon Street adds time to the commute and require passage through two busy intersections.
Lois Beaton, a fellow Westmount resident, feels similarly.
“There are only three ways to get in and the other two are dangerous,” she said. “Now I have to circle around the whole subdivision to go in.”
Beaton said many residents voiced their disapproval of the right turn restriction at a meeting with municipal staff in December.
“They’re not listening to us. We’ve said we don’t want it. They said they would have another meeting, which is tonight, to discuss it further,” she said. “But now it’s being presented as, ‘this is an information session to show you what we’ve done.’”
There will also be new parking restrictions along parts of Bayers Road.
Mike Connors is the transportation engineer in charge of the project. He took a number of questions from concerned residents at the information session.
“With all these projects there’s tradeoffs. It is something that’s unfortunate,” he said in an interview. “We’re comfortable with the design as shown. But we’re here to continue to hear feedback from the community.”
Connors said the expansion is worth it for a more reliable transit system, which the municipality hopes will increase ridership.
“That’s a very good stretch of dedicated bus lanes on one of the busiest corridors in the city. We anticipate significant reductions in travel time.”
Right now, the municipality estimates buses are regularly delayed 13-14 minutes due to congestion during peak hours on Bayers Road.
For the most part, municipal staff don’t expect the new bus lanes will change travel time for commuter traffic.
One possible exception is the stretch of road between Connaught Avenue and Windsor Street. It will lose one outbound traffic lane to make room for one of the bus lanes, which could add to congestion for commuters during peak hours. That section of Bayers Road isn’t slated to undergo construction until 2021.
Others happy with plan
Some residents along Bayers Road are happy with the municipality’s plan.
“I’m excited about that ‘cause it’s really hard to come home on Bayers Road from my work because of the congestion,” said Shelley Adams, whose backyard faces the road. Partially sighted, Adams can’t drive and relies on buses to get around.
“I think [buses] having their own lane will be better and quicker.”
Adams’ neighbor, Ruthie Matheson, will lose some of her trees and backyard in the road expansion. She has other worries, but said the traffic is so congested that she understands the tradeoff.
“I think noise is going to be worse. There’s going to be more traffic at a faster pace. But I know that they have to do it. We’re a growing city.”
The plan will also allow cyclists to use the bus lanes, along with a pedestrian-cycist pathway that will run alongside the road from Romans Avenue to Connaught Avenue, where it will connect with an existing bicycle path.
Connors expects to put out a tender for the construction project in the coming months. The municipality is still negotiating land acquisitions from Bayers Road property owners whose land will be needed to widen the road.
Have a story idea? Let us know