The city is going to drastically overhaul how cyclists travel to-and-from the Macdonald Bridge.
Regional council voted Tuesday to approve the Macdonald Bridge Bikeway Connectors project—rebuilding access and exit ramps for cyclists in Halifax and Dartmouth.
At $7.3 million, the new project isn’t cheap. But it is vital, said councillor Sam Austin, as the bridge is the main artery connecting cyclists in both halves of the urban core.
“If you think about where we’re going to spend money on infrastructure, the Macdonald Bridge is it,” Austin told his colleagues. “This is the situation where it makes sense to spend the cash if we’re going to do something significant.”
The Macdonald’s current access and exit ramps were designed 18 years ago with the bridge’s separated bike lane. Both feature planning flaws that have long been the bane of HRM’s cyclists. On the Halifax side, a steep incline towards North Street is near-impossible to climb. In Dartmouth, cyclists have to contend with high volumes of vehicular traffic.
The new exits will utilize side streets and new bike lanes along Wyse Road in Dartmouth, while the Halifax side will see a flyover ramp built for cyclists continuing on to North and Gottingen Streets.
Most of the project’s price tag is eaten up by that flyover ramp’s construction, but Austin brushed off expense concerns. The municipality already spends an inordinate amount of money on automobile owners, he says.
“When you consider the hundreds of hundreds of millions of dollars that we’ve spent on car road infrastructure over the last number of decades, spending a few million here and a few million there to get cycling infrastructure is a drop in the bucket.”
Mike Savage agreed with the Dartmouth Centre councillor.
“We spend tens of millions of dollars a year on roads,” the mayor said. “This is the bridge we have to cross, folks...If we’re going to do that, it’s going to cost us some money.”
That cost, according to Savage, is well worth the benefits.
“It’s not about who is on a cycle now. It’s about who is going to be on one in five years or 10 years.”
Detailed design work for the ramps will still need to be submitted. The project isn't slated for completion until 2021.