Cyclists travelling the Macdonald Bridge between Halifax and Dartmouth will need to wait two more years for a Halifax-end bikeway flyover that was initially targeted for completion in 2021.
In a report submitted to Halifax regional council ahead of Tuesday’s council meeting, HRM project manager Ahmed Allahham notes that delays to the project—which cyclists have long identified as a missing piece in the region’s cycling network—“have incurred additional costs” and “additional scope items” that will push the flyover’s completion to 2024.
The flyover was first proposed in 2017. City planners’ intention was to save Halifax-bound cyclists from having to descend from North Street to Barrington Street, before doubling back to North and facing a steep climb toward Gottingen Street. Initial cost estimates for the flyover were pegged at $6.5 million, which jumped to $7.3 million by August 2017. That estimate now sits at $12.7 million, Allahham says, due in part to increasing construction costs, a “better understanding of the project challenges” and “increasing project complexity.”
Transportation planner David MacIsaac detailed those challenges earlier this month to The Coast, noting that, among other things, Halifax Water has “some fairly important pipes” that are “very much in the vicinity” of where construction would take place.
“We knew that going into it, but as the [flyover] design gets refined, you get a bit more clarity on where the pillars [are] going to go relative to where that pipe is underground,” MacIsaac said.
That answer hasn’t sat well with every cyclist. Edson Castilho, who’s commuted by bicycle in Halifax since 2004 and crosses the Macdonald frequently, says the current infrastructure is a “real hindrance” to any bike-rider who uses it.
“How long can it possibly take to build?” he asks. “I understand it’s complex, but come on.”
AAA network faces “lack of understanding”
The latest HRM report also touches on the region’s behind-schedule rollout of its planned “All Ages and Abilities” (AAA) cycling network. The report notes that Halifax’s initial target of adding 45 kilometres of protected bike lanes, multi-use pathways and local street bikeways (city planner-speak for “quiet streets”) by 2022 is about a quarter complete: Allahham tells council “about 11 kilometres” of the planned network are finished, and that Halifax’s “inability to meet the target” is due to a number of factors, from “a lack of understanding of the full scope of work that would be involved” to a “lack of clear industry design standards.”
That admission has drawn the ire of some Halifax cycling advocates—including Jillian Banfield, who tweeted she “didn’t know whether to laugh or cry” when she read the council report: “‘Lack of understanding of the full scope of the work’ should be Halifax’s motto.”