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Dartmouthians duped via Bridge Terminal bait-and-switch 

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In a multi-million dollar exercise in bait-and-switch, renewed plans for an expanded Bridge Terminal lack all the design aspects that won over community support last year.

In early 2010, Metro Transit announced it wanted to expand the terminal by paving over six acres of land on the Dartmouth Common designated as the Wilderness Park. That idea was roundly criticized for taking park land, for coming too close to Dartmouth High School and for not being particularly wheelchair-friendly.

Through a series of public meetings, however, the plan was tweaked in a number of ways: the terminal was to be hidden from the school by placing it below an intervening hill, and a pedestrian bridge addressed accessibility issues while giving the terminal a striking, architecturally pleasing look. With those changes, there was begrudging, if not complete, community support for the project.

But budgeted for $9.5 million, bids for construction came in at $12.1 million. On their own accord, and without consulting city council, city staff have pared the cost back by removing the pedestrian bridge and by raising the terminal five feet, requiring less excavation. In short, the budget was met by ejecting everything in the compromise plan that neighbours and the school community had liked. (Disclosure: I live in the neighbourhood.)

Told of the new plans at Tuesday’s meeting of regional council, Dartmouth councillors Jim Smith and Gloria McCluskey were clearly not pleased. The matter will come back before the full council in two weeks, and before Dartmouth Community council February 3, but unless council nixes the plan, the stripped down plan will go out to bid the following week, with construction starting in April.

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