Regional council agrees to $2-million hike for Larry Uteck roundabout

Bedford-area traffic circle will go ahead in spring 2023 while roads remain open

Regional council voted on Tuesday to spend an extra $2 million to build the West Bedford roundabout without closing roads during construction.

The roundabout will be built at the intersection of Larry Uteck Boulevard and Broad Street, where two new apartment buildings and two new schools are set to open in September. The additional money for the project will be taken from the Dartmouth infrastructure renewal project.

The intersection at Broad Street and Larry Uteck Boulevard, where construction of the roundabout will begin in spring 2023.   Sondos Elshafei

In a report submitted by former chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé to the mayor and council, the roundabout construction is set to begin in spring 2023. The goal is to finish in time for the start of the new school year.

The budget transfer was moved  by Coun. Pam Lovelace, and seconded by Coun. Tim Outhit. It suggested a $2.7-million budget increase.

Outhit, in whose district the roundabout will be constructed, said in an interview that this project should have been done years ago, but council were waiting for budget approval to borrow money. He also said the area developed faster than expected, so the roundabout was started late.

“Had it been done sooner … fewer people would have been obstructed by the construction, and it wouldn’t have been so costly,” he said.

Outhit says that traffic is the “big worry.” He wanted construction to continue overnight, but that didn’t pass in council, so the construction will have to ensure accessibility during peak traffic hours.

The main debate at council on Tuesday was about the budget increase. The first option was keeping roads open during construction, and increasing the budget from $3,250,000 to $5,943,572. The other option was less costly, but it meant that roads would be closed until construction ended.

Lovelace said in council that over 200 emails came in from residents concerned over full road closures. They worried about being able to access new businesses that just opened up in the area.

Mayor Mike Savage and 13 councillors voted for the first option, and Deputy Mayor Sam Austin and Coun. Shawn Cleary voted for the latter.

Austin said in council that either way, the roundabout will be built, and the result will be the same, so they shouldn’t have to go with the more expensive option.

At council, Coun. Cleary said that there was no need to add more money to the budget.

Cleary said in an interview that closing the roads completely would be “cheaper, faster, and would have less logistic issues.” He said they are going into a very hard budget season, so it’s important to save whenever possible.

He said that the businesses could still have been accessed, but only through slightly longer routes, and it would just be a matter of time before roads are opened again.

Outhit said in council that keeping roads open is the best decision.

“This is not something that I would suggest to you lightly if I didn’t think there was significant risk to people’s productivity [and] lifestyle,” Outhit said.

Austin, the councillor for the district where the Dartmouth infrastructure project is being built, said in an interview that taking money from that project will not make a difference. It’s an important project, but it’s not set to be finished soon.

Austin said he asked HRM infrastructure manager Peter Duncan about the effect. “There shouldn’t be any impact on the Dartmouth project because we weren’t ready to go this year anyway. It’s simply borrowing, not robbing.”

Sondos Elshafei

Sondos is a fourth year BJH student at the University of King's College.

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