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EDITORIAL: Rethink the rail cut

Halifax Chronicle-Herald
May 20, 2013

No third bridge or tunnel: Staff report on location for new harbour crossing 'waste of time'

By DAVENE JEFFREY Staff Reporter
Tue. Jun 8, 2010 - 4:53 AM

Regional councillors polled Monday evening are against a third bridge spanning HalifaxHarbour or a tunnel running beneath it.

"I want to make it tougher to get onto the peninsula with motor vehicles," said Coun. Jim Smith (Albro Lake-Harbourview).

Municipal staff have prepared a report identifying a preferred site for a third commuter crossing which could be needed as early as 2016.

"I donít want to see another bridge," said Smith.

In 2008, the cost of a new bridge with six lanes was estimated to be $1.1 billion. A four-lane tunnelís cost was projected to be $1.4 billion.

"I think that itís an unfortunate waste of time and energy and resources," said Mayor Peter Kelly.

"We can use the dollars more strategically with other forms of transportation," the mayor said.

Planning for a tunnel or another bridge assumes that everything is staying the same, said Coun. Jennifer Watts (Connaught-Quinpool).

However, there are looming increases in oil prices and the environment to consider, she said.

"Weíre not going to be able to move around our community as we do now," Watts said.

Many residents in her area are interested in sustainable transportation, particularly improving the ability to get around town in bicycles, she said.

Instead of preparing for another commuter link, the city should look at ways of stopping more cars from driving onto the peninsula, said Coun. Jerry Blumenthal (Halifax North End).

He believes special lanes should be reserved for buses and carpoolers. Any solo drivers travelling in those lanes would be ticketed.

Councillors agreed sustainable transportation is where they should continue to focus their efforts rather than using another bridge or a tunnel as a backup plan.

Coun. Sue Uteck (Northwest Arm South End) has vowed to try to scuttle a proposal that would affect her part of town.

The tunnel or bridge would likely connect Highway 11 in Woodside to Port of Halifax lands and CN Rail property in Halifaxís south end.

"Iím voting with Sue Uteck," said Blumenthal.

Blumenthal said he protested alongside people opposed to the widening of Chebucto Road and was disheartened to see all the cars going by carrying only one occupant.

Another link for car traffic would only further increase traffic congestion and frustration on the peninsula, said Kelly.

The proposal emphasizes the need for an integrated transportation authority with the province as a key player, he said.

"We need to be focused on an overall transportation strategy. Piecemealing it by different levels of government will not help us achieve the collective goal," Kelly said.

"If we donít go in the direction we will pay continually the price financially and operationally for our overall transportation system."

( djeffrey@herald.ca)

Reader Comments:

8sml wrote:

It's wonderful to see all the clear heads and common-sense ideas council has on this issue. Way to go.

Keith P. wrote:

These comments by certain council members are pure shortsighted idiocy. This is not about getting more cars onto the peninsula. It is actually one piece of an overall transportation puzzle that will allow development and growth in areas like the southern side of Dartmouth and eventually western parts of Halifax. The city has grown substantially in the 40 years since the MacKay bridge was built, yet our road network has not changed to any appreciable extent. People are still forced to trundle along Pleasant St in Dartmouth to get to Eastern Passage or contend with the obsolete Armdale rotary to get to western parts if the region. How anyone can make the kind of idiotic statements that Smith, Watts, Blumenthal and Kelly have made in the article is beyond me -- oh, wait, it is Smith, Watts, Blumenthal and Kelly we are dealing with after all.

HalifaxHercules wrote:

Sad to hear that Halifax is not willing to solve its traffic congestion problems in not building a third bridge or creating other entry points to their inner city areas. What Halifax needs to do is encourage major employers in the HalifaxPeninsula to relocate to the suburban or rural commutershed areas to help eliminate the traffic congestion problems. However, as long as Mayor Kelly and city council is not willing to implement additional entry points to the HalifaxPeninsula area, traffic problems will get even worse, and the city won't be competitive. Another reason to get rid of Peter Kelly as Mayor.

City staff eye south-end land: Third harbour crossing idea making big waves

Sat. Jun 5, 2010 - 5:49 AM

A new municipal staff report has identified the preferred location for a potential third crossing across Halifax Harbour, a traffic project that might be needed as early as 2016.

But a regional councillor whose south-end Halifax district would be affected by the pro≠posed commuter crossing ó a bridge or tunnel ó said Friday sheíll make a procedural move at Tuesdayís council meeting to try to sink the billion-dollar scheme. The information report says the best prospective crossing would be a link between High way 111 in the Woodside area and the Port of Halifax lands and CN Rail property in Halifaxís south end.

ďBy endorsing the Highway 111 crossing location, regional council is not committing to a bridge or tunnel necessarily being constructed, or diminish ing ongoing efforts to maximize the number of cross-harbour trips being made by more sus tainable modes of travel," says the report, prepared by munici pal transportation manager Dave McCusker.

By endorsing the site, ďcouncil allows Halifax Harbour Bridges and Halifax Regional Municipal ity to take the steps necessary to ensure that future development will complement, and not in terfere with, a future ability to construct this crossing if deemed necessary."

McCusker told The Chronicle Herald it is staffís hope that regional council will agree in principle to the crossing site, should a bridge or tunnel ever be given the green light.

He said itís his understanding that such a crossing would have to be considered by Halifaxcouncil and the provincial cabi net.

ďThey would both have to agree on something being done," said McCusker.

The idea of a third crossing was floated by Halifax Harbour Bridges in 2008. It could be needed sometime between 2016 and 2026, or later, planners have said. Coun. Sue Uteck (North west Arm-South End), whoís on the board of commissioners at Halifax Harbour Bridges, said Friday the proposed project is a waste of staff time, and itís a concept thatíll likely never hap pen in her lifetime.

She said city hall needs to concentrate on using the har bour more, such as water taxis or another Metro Transit ferry, and forget about building a crossing thatís going to cost taxpayers a huge amount of money.

Metroís population has hit 400,000, Mayor Peter Kelly said recently. In 2008, a public meet ing heard a new bridge would probably have six lanes and cost $1.1 billion; a tunnel, with a $1.4-billion price tag, would accommodate four lanes.

ďI understand the need that weíve got to find, possibly in the future, more access to penin≠sular Halifax," Uteck said.

ďAnd I firmly believe that the way to go is the water. From my perspective, weíre not taking advantage of the most natural resource we have."

Uteck intends to place the report on Tuesdayís council agenda. If that happens, she said, sheíll marshal support from other councillors to kill the is sue.

ďThis report says nothing," she said. ďThereís no money, thereís no (political) will, thereís no initiative."


Making the most of our assets

in Letters to the Editor, Halifax Chronicle Herald
Wed. Jan 27, 2010 - 4:53 AM

It takes too long to get to the urban core of Halifax from outside the peninsula. Many commuters report travel times of 45 minutes to as much as an hour and a half, much too high for a city of fewer than 400,000 people. There is a great opportunity to better use our south-end port lands and the rail cut that accesses them.

The rail cut from downtown to Bayers Road can be converted to vehicular use, plus adjacent space for active transportation. This would require little adjustment to the current profile of the rail cut, in which case the proposal would cost much less to implement than the combined truck and rail proposal considered in early 2009.

Public transit vehicles would, of course, have priority access. Commuters using this route could expect substantial savings in travel time and the existing routes would be less congested.

In spite of energetic marketing and a dedicated workforce, our container ports have seen market share shrink as quickly as the market has grown. More recently, volumes have reduced below the level seen in 2000. The Fairview Cove facility can easily handle today's traffic volumes as well as reasonable growth for many years into the future, so the impact on port jobs of consolidating container handling there should be small.

In March of 2009, a study was released which examined the cost and benefit of using the rail cut to divert truck traffic (and perhaps some transit and emergency vehicles) on a roadway to be constructed adjacent to the rail lines. This involved substantial demolition and removal of rock, so the cost was very high - over $200 million for each of the variations considered.

Given that there are only 500 trucks a day that would use the service, the benefits to commuters using city streets were negligible. Unsurprisingly, the idea was rejected.

The report's authors were asked to address the wrong question. The right question is this: What would the costs and benefits be of using the rail cut for vehicles (including bicycles) instead of trains? Interestingly, the benefits to transportation are only half the story.

Apart from cruise ships (for which the rail link is not relevant), the primary activity at the south-end port facility takes place at the Halterm container terminal. Staff at the port have worked hard to increase traffic, but the results have been disappointing. The amount of container traffic at the two terminals combined is only enough to fill one train per day.

Some believe that the advent of post-Panamax ships will provide a special opportunity for Halifax. But the prospect of a widened Panama Canal and deeper dredging in New York and other East Coast ports make this advantage likely to be transitory.

We need to think of the area currently occupied by the container terminal and associated rail yards as part of our harbour, without necessarily being part of the port. Together they represent over 100 acres of opportunity to enhance our city, with both new public spaces and private developments.

Of course, the commercial interests of Halterm, CN, and other affected port users need to be understood and their legal rights respected. For CN, this might actually prove to be a win, with profits from land sales and fewer tracks to maintain. Halterm will have rights under its lease from the port.

A study is needed which should include:

oTwo-way vehicle traffic: Buses and emergency vehicles would have priority, as perhaps would vehicles with more than one passenger.

Access to the road should be provided at only two locations. Incoming "on" access might be provided at the bottom of the Bicentennial Highway and below Roosevelt Drive. "Off" could be behind Sears and at Bayers Road.

An evaluation should be made of using both lanes for traffic coming in during the morning peak and going out during the afternoon peak.

oAn adjacent bike path commencing in the vicinity of the roundabout and continuing to the bottom of Francklyn Street, and adjacent walking space. This will help greenhouse gas emissions by making bike travel possible, reducing transit times, favouring high-occupancy vehicles, and eliminating container-bearing truck traffic. Best of all, more people will be able to live close to where they work and be able to walk.

There are close to 100 homes that might experience some ongoing impact of the change. Efforts to minimize could include low speed limits and buffering with the greenway.

This narrative has not benefited from any new engineering or financial study.

It proposes a question to be properly addressed both by professionals doing the calculations and by interested citizens contributing ideas.

The government should commission a proper evaluation of the right question. We need to make better use of our best assets.

Bill Black, a former leadership candidate for the provincial Progressive Conservatives, recently launched the website New Start Nova Scotia (newstartns.ca).

Note: Bill Black's website includes a lengthy article and video commentary on the rail cut, plus many reader comments.

Railway-cut idea learning experience

By ROGER TAYLOR Business Columnist
Fri. Mar 6 - 7:46 AM

I DONíT know this for sure, but Iím willing to bet there were a lot of happy Haligonians after the news this week that the province wasnít going to pave the railway cut.

Many people probably never heard the term "railway cut" before the controversial plan came to the attention of the public. Now it seems the scheme to stop 18-wheelers from travelling to and from the Halterm container terminal through downtown streets will disappear as quickly as it arose.

But this is a learning experience that should be followed up by closer examination.

The provincial government said the $220 million it would take to build a highway next to the railway track was too much money and that was a good enough reason to cancel the plan. But there has to be more to it than that.

Cost is the easy excuse for blocking the project. Truth be told, if paving the railway cut would have made a significant improvement in the efficiency of the Port of Halifax, then the price tag would not have been a serious issue.

The decision to cancel was just as much political as it was financial. The plan was not popular with a great many voters in Halifax, some of whom organized to stop the idea from moving forward. In their favour was the fact that nobody could really show how paving the cut would shorten the time it takes to get the containers to their destination.

Now the group called Communities and Residents for Sustainable Transportation is reported to be looking for other popular causes to contest. It has been suggested that members may focus on fighting a widening of Bayers Road.

It seems to me these people have the right idea and those who are running government are stuck in the 1960s, when the car was king.

As someone mentioned to me Wednesday, why pave the railway cut to allow for trucks when there is an underused railway track in the same right-of-way? Why couldnít the containers be moved by rail from downtown to a location from which trucks could come and go more easily?

Rail is a more efficient way to move both goods and people and since the infrastructure is already in place, the cost of implementing such a plan would only be a fraction of what it would take to build a highway.

So that leads me to wonder just how seriously the government wanted to remove the trucks from the downtown. Or perhaps the railway cut idea was raised for some other reason.

For its part, Communities and Residents for Sustainable Transportation could just as easily target the cityís plan to create a fast-ferry service from Bedford at a cost of about $30 million. Ferries seem to be a good idea but the rail tracks already pass through Bedford, and a commuter rail system could take Bedford passengers all the way downtown to the Via station in the south end.

Mass transportation is a major issue and will become especially important as the price of energy starts to rebound.

Now is the time for government to encourage a new way of thinking about transportation problems and how to solve them.

The first solution should be to expand our use of rail.

( rtaylor@herald.ca)

© 2009 The Halifax Herald Limited

Integrated Transportation Corridor: Phase 1 Feasibility Study

Government axes Halifax railbed plan as cost soars

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 | 3:24 PM AT
- includes Story Comments from the public

Extract from Marilla Stephenson Column

Thu. Mar 5 - 5:24 AM

Hey, whatís that sound? Why, itís the Hallelujah Chorus coming from the cityís south end. You can even hear it out here in mainland Halifax.

The provincial government announced Wednesday that the concept of paving the CN rail cut to give heavy truck traffic a clearer route out of the Halifax peninsula has been dropped. The plan was first floated with a price tag of about $50 million, but cost estimates soon jumped to $80 million and then ballooned to $220 million.

Sue Uteck, the Halifax city councillor who lives close to the Halterm container terminal, told The Canadian Press that the figure might have gone even higher. "I had heard from behind the scenes that the cost was escalating at an alarming rate."

The initial plan was to employ the rail cut, which has seen steady declines in train traffic in recent years, to help get container truck traffic off city streets. The concept involved a shared transportation surface that could also be used for express transit and emergency vehicles.

Needless to say, the many people who live along the rail cut, from the $1-million-plus homes deep in the south end all the way out through the proposed exit point near Fairview Cove, were less than thrilled with the idea of the truck thoroughfare. And they didnít hesitate to let politicians of all stripes and levels of government know it.

Given the results of the cost-benefit analysis, the provincial Tories made the right decision. And with an election likely around the corner, they made the right decision. Some noises they can do without.

Much like the third bridge across the arm and the really far-out idea of a harbour tunnel, the multi-purpose rail cut is now headed to the dust bin.

Wait, whatís that new noise? Of course, murmurs about another transportation study. Canít wait to see what the consultants come up with next.

( mstephenson@herald.ca)

© 2009 The Halifax Herald Limited

Editorial - Trucks donít make the cut

Thu. Mar 5 - 5:37 AM

THE PROVINCIAL governmentís proposal to put a truck expressway in the Halifax rail corridor faced two "showstopper" risks, says the latest study, released yesterday.

One was "a lack of political will at the HRM level," says consultant McCormick Rankin Corp. The other was "a change in political will at the provincial level."

Bingo! McCormick Rankin Corp., your forecast has instantly come to pass.

City councilís lack of enthusiasm became clear last month when leaks suggested the truckway would leave Halifax on the hook for replacing a dozen bridges. And yesterday, the provincial showstopper finished the job. Transportation Minister Brooke Taylor said the truckway will not proceed because the $225-million-plus cost of the preferred option Ė two lanes of highway beside two rail lines Ė was too pricey "from a Gateway perspective."

Atlantic Gateway has been the provinceís mantra on this project from the get-go. Ottawa is ready to put up more than $300 million to improve port, distribution and transportation systems in the region, the reasonable idea being to spur economic development through support for trade. Since Halifax is the regionís major port, the MacDonald government Ė and federal Defence Minister Peter MacKay Ė jumped on the notion that a dedicated truck route to the south-end container pier, bypassing busy city streets, was a natural Gateway priority because it would boost port efficiency.

But as the McCormick Rankin study clearly shows, it doesnít. The best-case scenario is that the project would cost $212-million (not including the cost of acquiring the right-of-way from CN or expropriating south-end properties to widen the corridor) while the benefits Ė in reduced travel times over 30 years Ė would be a mere $12.5 million. Thatís a meagre benefit-to-cost ratio of six per cent.

The study says the truckway would have only a slight impact on overall city travel times because port-related trucking isnít a major factor in rush-hour congestion. By 2026, the route would save 15 minutes for trucks travelling at peak times. But it would have no effect on greenhouse gas emissions, since the truckway is a longer route out of town.

The study does say using the corridor for rapid bus service could help the city achieve its target of getting 23 per cent of commuters to use public transit by 2026, a key component of cutting both congestion and greenhouse gases. But if the province wants to boost transit use, there are better ways of spending $225 million than widening the rail cut.

The government made the right call, then, in derailing the truckway proposal. But letís now see some infrastructure plans that really would make the port more competitive and put commuters into clean and efficient public transportation.

© 2009 The Halifax Herald Limited

Reader Comments

Truckers group, port shrug off rail cut news, say theyíll survive

By TOM PETERS Business Reporter
Thu. Mar 5 - 5:21 AM

The provinceís decision not to go forward with expansion of the CN railway cut in Halifax to accommodate trucks from Halterm container terminal should not affect the portís competitiveness, says the director of the provincial Gateway initiative.

"The port has been competitive and will continue to be competitive into the future," David Oxner said Wednesday. "The port continually has to look at ways to improve efficiencies and decrease costs. This was just one aspect of that. So I think the port and its partners will have to continue doing that work."

Transportation Minister Brooke Taylor said Wednesday the cost of developing an integrated transportation corridor along the railway cut from Halterm to Fairview in the west end was too high.

An in-depth analysis and study projected costs of more than $220 million. The idea of the expanded corridor was one of several projects on Premier MacDonaldís list of provincial Gateway projects that he hoped would be undertaken.

Based on previous cost studies, it was estimated the cost to develop the corridor would be around $100 million or less. The $220 million-plus price tag caught people by surprise.

Mr. Oxner said this new study shows that the original number ($80 million) developed a few years ago was really a preliminary number "and when they started to dig down deep, the numbers really grew into the $200 million-plus range."

"This study was all encompassing and very detailed."

If the province had decided to pursue the project, it may have been eligible for up to 50 per cent funding under the federal Gateway funding program.

Peter Nelson, executive-director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, said the project made sense if it was going to get truck traffic out of the downtown area.

But he said Wednesday the trucking industry can live with the fact it is not going to happen.

"The logistics look too great in terms of what had to be done in terms of the construction and engineering side. It was a mammoth project to undertake at this time, so we can certainly understand why the province might not want to go forward with it.

If the province feels the railway cut is not an option, "then we would be more than willing to work with them to look at other options," Mr. Nelson said.

The Halifax Port Authority said the concept was certainly worth studying as "other jurisdictions have similar corridors that help make transportation to and from ports efficient," authority spokeswoman Michele Peveril said in an email.

The port "will continue working with government and the port community to evaluate other ideas to ensure our portís competiveness and improve the efficiency of our transportation system," she said.

CN, which hasnít been overly vocal about the whole idea since it was first brought to the publicís attention, was cordial in its comment on the provinceís decision.

"CN is respectful of the governmentís decision and will continue to work closely with the local government and industry to promote the Atlantic Gateway," CN spokeswoman Julie Senecal said.

Mr. Oxner said there could be other options available to ease downtown truck traffic and itís something he hopes to discuss with Halifax Regional Municipality.

"We were pretty focused on this piece of work initially, so now I think we will sit down with the city and other partners to see what other alternatives there are. That is the next step."

( tpeters@herald.ca)

© 2009 The Halifax Herald Limited

Rail cut plan goes off track - Province rejects plan for corridor when cost soared to $220 million

By MELANIE PATTEN The Canadian Press
Thu. Mar 5 - 6:52 AM

The Nova Scotia government has rejected a plan to develop a consolidated truck and rail corridor into Halifax, saying Wednesday the cost of the project is too high.

A report examining the feasibility of the project put the cost at more than $220 million, considerably more than original estimates of about $80 million.

The proposal was part of the Atlantic Gateway initiative and called for using existing rail lines into Halifax as a route for both truck and container traffic to and from the port.

Transportation Minister Brooke Taylor said the report, prepared for the government by McCormick Rankin Corp., was given "careful evaluation" before officials decided to pass on the project.

"Basically, itís cost-prohibitive at this particular point in time," Taylor said in an interview. "Cost aside, I think it would have been a terrific project."

The integrated corridor was one of several projects being considered under the provinceís gateway initiative.

Sue Uteck, a Halifax councillor, said she wasnít surprised by the provinceís decision.

"I had heard from behind the scenes that the cost was escalating at an alarming rate," she said.

Premier Rodney MacDonald has been pushing for the development of so-called Atlantic Gateway projects.

Such projects would see upgrades to transportation routes and ports, to increase the flow of container traffic through the province.

Uteck said itís important that the money that would have gone to the corridor proposal not "walk down the road as we did in the Commonwealth Games."

"We had the opportunity (and) $400 million walked down the road, and I donít want to see that happen for the Port of Halifax," she said.

The city dropped a bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games amid concerns about soaring costs to host them.

"Itís vital that we have a solution for the Port of Halifax. I think itís the second-largest generator of jobs in our economic index in HRM. We canít afford to lose it," said Uteck.

The plan called for converting part of an existing CN railway cut that runs along Halifax harbour to accommodate trucks travelling from the Port of Halifax to Highway 102 and facilitate container traffic.

Atlantic Gateway projects are intended to make Nova Scotia the gateway to North America for trade coming through the Suez Canal from India and other parts of Asia.

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said the idea was "ill-conceived" by government from the beginning.

"They wasted precious dollars in looking at this project, in terms of analyzing it," he said. "From the very beginning, it did not make sense to carve up our city, to move trucks from one street to another to go to an inefficient port."

McNeil said the proposal made no sense from a business perspective and was nothing more than a game to make the government look like itís doing something.

Leonard Preyra, NDP member for Halifax Citadel-Sable Island, agreed with McNeil that the rail cut "never seemed to make any business sense."

"It really didnít appear to meet the main objective, which was to make the Port of Halifax more competitive," he said.

"It seems that a lot of these projects are announced out of sheer, political expediency . . . and not whether or not the project is going to be good for the province in the long term."

Both McNeil and Uteck suggested alternate projects, including building an inland port. Freight could be placed on railcars at the Port of Halifax and transported to an inland facility, where it could be transferred to trucks.

Taylor said similar scenarios have been considered, but itís not a good fit at this point.

"Previous studies have determined that thereís really not a business case for building additional handling capacity inland until existing terminals are closer to their operating capacity," he said.

Reader Comments

Sustainable options -

Reader-Contributed Editorial, Sunday Chronicle-Herald

Sun. Feb 22 - 4:46 AM

As we await the latest study on the 6.9-kilometre CN rail cut, letís step back for a moment. Before a chain of residential neighbourhoods on the Halifax peninsula become the experiment for shovel-in-the-ground infrastructure economics, we need to look at the overall transportation problem in HRM.

Proposals have been coming from all directions: a new harbour bridge, pave the rail cut, buy high-speed ferries, widen Bayers Road. Has anybody thought about an integrated approach or sustainable transportation alternatives?

Somebodyís thought about it Ė in studies like the "Halifax Inland Terminal and Trucking Options Study (2006)." Letís take a look at what it says.

We donít want container trucks in the downtown? Ship the containers by rail shuttle from dockside at Halterm to an inland terminal in an industrial park where trucks will meet them. We donít want to be stuck in rush-hour traffic at a Bayers Road bottleneck? Take high-speed commuter rail from Bedford/Sackville to the CN station downtown, and enjoy a cup of coffee and a newspaper.

The issue of transportation in and out of the peninsula needs to be considered in terms of a strategy that is forward-looking, not only economic, but also green Ė where cars and trucks are not seen as part of the solution, but in fact the problem. Peninsula Halifax is a beautiful spot, as is all of HRM. We should be a showcase for solving transportation problems with a strategy that is sustainable, satisfies all interests, and makes us a great place to live, work and play.

We have the opportunity. The financing can be there Ė whether it be for light rail, shuttle trains, more buses, etc. Smart infrastructure spending should consider all alternatives. Specifically, the commuter rail committee for HRM needs to be revived. The feasibility of a rail shuttle service from the port needs to be examined in detail.

Every resident and community should take these issues seriously and have input Ė individually or through groups like CREST (Communities and Residents for Sustainable Transportation).

Murray Metherall, Halifax

Letters to the Editor

Railway cut unlikely to be worth its cost

By ROGER TAYLOR Business Columnist
Tue. Feb 17 - 6:47 AM

ONCE PEOPLE hear the predicted price tag for paving the railway cut through peninsular Halifax, theyíre usually quick to complain that it is a total waste of money.

Although it was once estimated that it would cost about $50 million to pave the railway bed to allow 18-wheelers to travel to and from the Halterm container terminal in the cityís south end, a recent estimate suggests the cost would be more than $250 million.

Considering that the federal government has designated $300 million for all Atlantic Gateway spending, one person recently pointed out that spending so much on the railway cut doesnít sound like the best use of those precious dollars.

The idea of paving the railway right-of-way, which runs through major residential sections of Halifax as a means of alleviating heavy truck traffic, is a mistake.

Even though trucks now compete for position with regular commuter traffic on narrow downtown streets, there has to be a better solution than simply redirecting the dirty, noisy vehicle traffic through normally quiet neighbourhoods.

The best use of the railway cut is as a conduit for railway traffic.

Maintaining the cut or even expanding the right-of-way with a second rail track opens up the possibility of the containers being shipped to a central yard further inland, where the cargo could more easily be transferred to trucks if necessary.

It also opens up the possibility for commuter rail.

But even suggesting that the cut be used for rail doesnít satisfy everybody. Some readers have confided to me that they donít like trains passing through their backyard either, but they have learned to accept it as the lesser of two evils.

Some people have even suggested that the Halterm terminal should be relocated out of the south end, perhaps across the harbour to Dartmouth, where transportation seems to be less of an issue. But the problem there is access to deep water.

Billy Joe MacLean, the mayor of Port Hawkesbury, called to tell me recently that he thinks the answer to the problem is to move Halterm out of Halifax and relocate it to the Strait of Canso.

A group of private Nova Scotia developers are proceeding with plans to build an ultra-modern terminal in Melford, Guysborough County, across the harbour from Port Hawkesbury.

"I just thought Iíd put a plug in for the Strait," says MacLean.

He points out that the Strait of Canso has already been identified as one of the best ports in the world for locating a container terminal.

"Why wouldnít the government look at it and concentrate (its investment) and let Halterm take a partnership (in it)?" he asks.

If they helped build the terminal in Guysborough County on "a virgin site," it could become a significant operation, which he says is even a day closer to markets in central Canada and the U.S. than Halifax is.

Mayor MacLean says Halterm once investigated an investment at the Strait of Canso, but it never worked out. Now that economic conditions have changed, he says it might be the right time for such a move.

While it can be a nuisance to nearby residents, the Halterm terminal is a big contributor to the tax base in Halifax.

In addition, many Halifax taxpayers are employed directly and indirectly by Halterm.

If it were to happen, I predict moving Halterm to the Strait of Canso would not happen without a bitter fight, which would make the upcoming battle over the paving of the railway cut a relatively easy political decision.

( rtaylor@herald.ca)

© 2009 The Halifax Herald Limited


MarkyMark wrote:

"The best use of the railway cut is as a conduit for railway traffic."

I couldn't have said it any better.

The vast majority of TEUs shipped through Halterm and Ceres container terminals go by rail. Building the inland terminal - similar to the Virginia Inland Port outside Norfolk (http://www.vaports.com/facilities/FAC-term-vip.htm) - would simplify Halterm and Ceres operations.... everything would arrive and depart at those terminals by rail, freeing up some of the land currently used for truck queuing for more on-dock storage for ships.

The small percentage of containers that go by truck on Halifax Peninsula streets could easily be handled by shuttle trains from the Halifax Inland Terminal. But this is still a large amount of trucks for the narrow streets of the historic city, so putting that traffic on trains to take them from the inland terminal to the docks makes complete sense.

Give public say on rail redesign ó group Look at potential alternatives to $200m project, citizens say

By TOM PETERS Staff Reporter
Sun. Feb 15 - 5:18 AM

A Halifax citizens group is calling on the provincial government to seek public opinion before any decisions are made on a redesign of the CN railway cut.

Information from a draft feasibility study on turning the rail cut into a multi-use transportation corridor running from Halterm container terminal to Fairview, near the start of the Bicentennial Highway, suggests the cost of such a project would be well over $200 million.

The study was conducted by McCormick Rankin Corp. for the province at a cost of nearly $289,000. It considers road safety, neighbourhood impact, greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution, and provides a cost-benefit analysis. The final draft is to go to the province in the next few days and will be studied by cabinet before being made public.

Redesigning the cut for multi-transportation use was on a list of Atlantic Gateway projects that Premier Rodney MacDonald announced in early 2008. The idea is to reroute trucks hauling cargo to and from the Halterm terminal away from downtown streets, with the redesigned route to be used by buses and possibly by emergency and bicycle traffic.

Peter MacKay, federal minister responsible for the Atlantic Gateway, has also expressed his interest in seeing traffic rerouted through the rail cut.

Andrea Brinton, spokeswoman for a group called Communities and Residents for Sustainable Transportation, said Saturday the cost of a redesign is a concern.

"We donít think it does sound feasible, especially where they havenít considered some other alternatives, so I think thatís why we thought it would be appropriate to have some public input prior to them moving forward on this project," she said.

About two years ago there was a proposal to reduce downtown truck traffic by building an inland terminal where containers would be moved by rail to and from an inland destination near Rocky Lake and then loaded or unloaded from trucks. This was followed by the idea of establishing a distribution area at Burnside Park in Dartmouth that would also be served by rail shuttle.

A study by MariNova Consulting about four years ago discussed a proposal for one-way traffic only along the rail cut and said spending about $40 million on such a project would not be worthwhile. It said paving to accommodate two-way traffic would require extensive work on railway bridges and an expansion of the rail cut, all of which would cost much more.

"Whatever the cost is, the money needs to be spent wisely and if all of the alternatives are not being considered, I donít think we are actually looking at spending those funds wisely," Ms. Brinton said.

She said her group supports public input into the rail cut idea "to get people to look at the issues and discuss the alternatives."

"If we donít consider all of the options then we are not going to get the best alternative, the best solution for everybody, and spend the money wisely," she said. "I understand if they plan to proceed then thatís when public consultation would happen, but I think that needs to happen earlier."

Ms. Brinton said the proposal affects all of Halifax Regional Municipality.

"Whatever happens to the rail corridor will have an impact on the traffic flow for the whole municipality," she said. "It is time for residents to get involved, voice their opinions and insist on a long-term strategic vision for transportation in HRM that is sustainable."

( tpeters@herald.ca)

© 2009 The Halifax Herald Limited

Reader Comments

Editorial - Halifax rail cut: Do Gateway a smart way

Fri. Feb 13 - 5:57 AM

THERE'S no question the Halifax peninsula rail cut - running from Fairview to the Halterm container terminal - is an underused transportation corridor in a city that could certainly use some faster, cleaner and greener transportation links to the downtown and the port.

But it's hard to fathom why the provincial government is stuck on only one way of using the rail corridor - to put a truck and bus expressway alongside the existing rail line - to improve Halifax's position as an Atlantic Gateway for trade and business.

Only three years ago, a thorough study for the city and the port authority by MariNova Consulting found a rail-cut "truckway" was not the best way to address truck congestion in the city, reduce greenhouse gases or improve the efficiency of the port.

"By far the best option," it said, was to build an inland terminal adjacent to the Rocky Lake quarry, near Bedford. The rail cut would be used to rail-shuttle containers directly from ships to the inland terminal to make connections with trains or trucks.

MariNova envisaged a minimum $40-million price, plus the cost of a new rail bridge at Chebucto Road, for the truckway. This would widen the cut for a one-lane truck road, with a safe separation from the rail line. The single lane would be reversible, alternating between inbound-only and outbound-only, with traffic waiting at holding areas at each end. About half the port's truck traffic was expected to use the road, less if truckers found the wait inconvenient.

MariNova said the cost of a two-lane road beside the track would be "much higher" since this would mean replacing 14 bridges and nearly doubling the width of the cut (from 38 feet to 77 feet) for about half its length. The study concluded even a $40-million price "cannot be justified" by the small savings for truckers, a mere $140,000 a year.

Media reports now say $40 million wouldn't begin to cover the tab. CTV News says a draft report for cabinet puts the bill between $205 million and $270 million. That sticker shock prompted Halifax Councillor Sue Uteck to urge city council to take another look at the inland terminal study before being stuck with a huge bill for bridges. Wisely, councillors agreed.

The province, too, should be looking at the rail-shuttle and inland-terminal version of the Atlantic Gateway. Unlike the truckway, the inland terminal actually provides for future growth of the port by increasing its container-handling capacity.

And where a truckway merely moves some truck noise and pollution from downtown streets to residential neighbourhoods, the inland terminal removes trucks from the whole peninsula by shuttling containers on railcars. That's fairer to residents and good for the environment, too.

MariNova concluded the inland terminal was "the best option for removing trucks from city streets, reducing GHGs and adding port capacity." This sounds like the smart way to create a Gateway to growth. Why isn't the province considering

© 2009 The Halifax Herald Limited

Uteck: Rail cut a few costly bridges too far

By AMY PUGSLEY FRASER City Hall Reporter

Wed. Feb 11 - 5:21 AM

The province might have a fight brewing on its hands over the Atlantic Gateway project. Coun.

Sue Uteck (Northwest Arm-South End) says Halifax city hall hasn't signed off on the project, which would include the conversion of part of the CN railway cut to accommodate trucks travelling from the Port of Halifax to Highway 102.

The route would speed up the delivery of container freight from the port to the highway by getting truck traffic off clogged inner-city streets.

But Ms. Uteck says the city could be on the hook for millions of dollars if the plan goes ahead.

That's because the city would be responsible for widening the 12 bridges spanning the tracks that lead from the port to the Highway 102 on-ramps.

"And that's not in our budget," she said outside council chambers Tuesday night.

During the council meeting, Ms. Uteck received her colleagues' full support to schedule a presentation on an alternative to the rail cut plan.

That option would involve putting the freight on railcars at the Port of Halifax and transporting it to an inland facility where it could be transferred to trucks.

"If it's much more economically feasible to move freight in and around the city (by train), then I can imagine that council will say, 'We're not going to participate (in the paved rail cut plan),' " Ms. Uteck said.

MariNova Consulting Ltd. had prepared a study on the so-called Atlantic Gateway Distripark inland facility for the consideration of regional council and the province. But the study's findings have never been revealed, she said in the interview

"MariNova got cut off at the knees . . . and we've suddenly gone from abandoning the Distripark study to the inland rail corridor. And that has serious cost implications to HRM."

Given the rumoured $270-million cost to convert the rail corridor, she said it's important to open up the study.

"I think even the premier's surprised at the cost so far.

"There's only $330 million (in federal money) to go around (for the Atlantic Gateway) initiative. And this one single project will suck all the money from Atlantic Canada. Is this really the best bang for the buck?"

Cabinet is set to meet about the Atlantic Gateway on Friday, she said.

"And I think the best defence is a good offence, so I'd like council to see that study for our benefit so we have the options where we want to participate."

Atlantic Gateway projects are intended to make Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada the gateway to North America for trade coming through the Suez Canal from India and other parts of Asia.

( apugsley@herald.ca)

© 2009 The Halifax Herald Limited

Reader Comments

Rail corridor conversion may cost $270m

Sat. Feb 7 - 6:04 AM

Preliminary information suggests it could cost up to $270 million to convert a railway corridor in Halifax to help improve traffic to the cityís container terminals.

CTV News says the projected cost of the project is contained in a draft version of a provincially commissioned report.

CTV says the draft report contains several options, in the cost range of $205 million to $270 million.

The corridor could accom-modate both trains and trucks, as well as emergency vehicles. report says.

The news report says other costs would involve things like the purchase of land and an agreement with CN Rail.

The provincial government told CTV it has not seen a final report and more analysis is required.

CTV says a final report could be ready next week.

Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald has been pushing for the development of so-called Atlantic Gateway projects.

Such projects would see upgrades to transportation routes and ports, to increase the flow of container traffic through the province.

The Canadian Press

Reader Comments

Wider roads, more traffic

ROGER TAYLOR Sat. Jan 31 - 5:50 AM

OF ALL the infrastructure projects proposed recently by readers of this column, not one included widening Halifaxís Bayers Road as being a good use of taxpayersí dollars.

Many of those who wrote in with ideas of how the government should use capital spending to help stimulate the economy came up with ideas like creating a commuter rail system or improving the existing transit system. Itís doubtful too many people would have thought about expanding Bayers Road to make it easier for car and truck traffic to get onto peninsular Halifax ó except perhaps the cityís car-centric traffic authority.

The public found out about the plan earlier this week after it was revealed at a city council meeting by councillors for the affected districts. City staff is recommending that Bayers Road be as wide as six lanes in sections, which would mean the removal of some homes deemed to be in the way.

It reminds me of one of Premier Rodney MacDonaldís favourite infrastructure projects, the paving of the railway cut through south-end Halifax to allow 18-wheelers carrying containers to come and go from the Halterm container terminal.

The goal is to eliminate the steady stream of heavy truck traffic travelling through busy downtown Halifax, but it means redirecting the truck traffic through a heavily residential section of the city. To me it sounds like the cure is worse than the disease......

( rtaylor@herald.ca)

© 2009 The Halifax Herald Limited

Communities and Residents for Sustainable Transportation (CREST)

The ďCommunity Information Session for Future Use of the CN Rail CutĒ - Hosted by Leonard Preyra. It may be seen by clicking on the ďON-DEMANDĒ button and then clicking on ďJan 14, 2009".

Residents voice off against widening plan Wisdom of paving rail cut challenged

By MICHAEL LIGHTSTONE Staff Reporter Thu. Jan 15 - 4:46 AM

To halt recession, we need to spend more, build right

ROGER TAYLOR Sat. Jan 3 - 5:37 AM

A RECESSION is pushing government to inject more cash into the economy. But how it achieves that goal is more complicated than it sounds.

For one thing, the government is making noises about using more tax dollars to finance infrastructure projects.


Yet government spending must be carefully scrutinized. One of the big government ideas for Nova Scotia is the plan to pave the railway cut that extends through Halifax's south end.

Paving the railway line sounds like a good plan, because it could redirect the dozens of container-carrying 18-wheelers travelling to and from the Halterm container terminal through downtown Halifax.

But it seems to me that instead of paving the rail line to allow for trucks, the money could be better used to improve the rail system - for everyone's benefit.

There's no doubt about it: Rail travel is about to undergo a renaissance in Canada.

Perhaps the provincial and federal governments could be persuaded to build a high-speed commuter rail link between Halifax and Truro, via the Halifax airport, which would help cut down on the wear and tear on the province's busiest highway. It would also reduce pollution from all those commuter vehicles, which travel back and forth between both communities each day.

That's only one idea. The people running government need to start thinking about long-term benefits while they're stimulating the economy today.

If good ideas are put into practice well, the resulting economic stimulus will accomplish both goals.

Paving the railway cut is only one project I've heard about; the new convention centre in Halifax may be another. But I don't really trust government to come up with its own list of great ideas about how to spend money on infrastructure.

It might be wise for government to solicit proposals from the public; there are a lot of good thinkers out there. But I'm not holding my breath on that one either.

Average Nova Scotians are in the position of waiting for infrastructure spending plans to be announced; hopefully they will be used for something worthwhile.

Send me an e-mail if you have an idea that you would like the government to consider.

( rtaylor@herald.ca)

© 2009 The Halifax Herald Limited

Rail cut study due out soon

By OUR STAFF Sat. Jan 3 - 5:12 AM

Aside from a lot of snow, January in Nova Scotia brings with it the first government feasibility study of 2009.

It happens to be linked to a controversial proposal to improve the transportation of goods through metro.

The CN rail cut in south-end Halifax is the subject of a $288,765 consultant's review to determine its suitability as an integrated transportation corridor.

Part of the province's Atlantic Gateway project, the proposed expansion of the rail cut to accommodate trucks moving cargo to and from the port of Halifax, emergency vehicles and possibly Metro Transit buses, is being studied by an independent transportation engineering firm, McCormick Rankin Corp.

The study, which will look at road safety, neighbourhood impact, greenhouse gas emissions and noise pollution, is to be finished by the end of this month. It'll also provide a cost-benefit analysis.

David Oxner, director of the province's gateway initiative, told The Chronicle Herald recently the study will determine whether the rail corridor can handle container truck traffic and routes for transit buses, and even cyclists and pedestrians.

The purpose of the corridor is to divert container trucks heading to and from the busy Halterm terminal away from the downtown core.

Developing the CN rail cut is one of a number of projects Premier Rodney MacDonald wants included in the Atlantic Gateway program. The federal government has set aside more than $2 billion to help fund gateway projects in Canada.

The gateway moved from a loose concept to a real plan last March when Mr. MacDonald released his priority list. Items included dredging the entry channel in Sydney Harbour, expanding the rail cut in Halifax, building a new multi-tenant cargo facility at Halifax Stanfield International Airport and more development in Burnside Park in Dartmouth.

( newsroom@herald.ca)

© 2009 The Halifax Herald Limited

Reader Comments

What'll it be: Bridge or tunnel? Public not sold on need for third crossing

By KRISTEN LIPSCOMBE Staff Reporter Thu. Nov 13 - 6:32 AM

Whether it's another bridge or an underground tunnel, a third crossing could be needed to handle the traffic travelling across Halifax Harbour as early as 2016.

That's what about 20 Haligonians who showed up at a community consultation at Cole Harbour Place heard Wednesday night from representatives with the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission.

Engineer Jon Eppell told the crowd a new bridge would likely span six lanes, including two for high-occupancy vehicles, and cost $1.1 billion. A tunnel, with a $1.4-billion price tag, would probably accommodate four lanes.

He said another bridge would include paths for bikers and walkers, but height for vessels passing underneath would be a concern. An underground tunnel, on the other hand, wouldn't allow for recreational lanes.

If the province moves ahead with either option, Mr. Eppell said the best location for both would be to link Highway 111 in Woodside to the CN rail cut at the south-end Halifax container terminal.

But not all of the people in attendance seemed convinced that doling out big bucks to build something new is the best solution for growing concerns about traffic congestion in the downtown core.

"The current model that we're working on as a society is not sustainable," said Bob Verge, who was the first to stand up and share his thoughts during the public meeting. "I suspect that over the next five, 10 years those assumptions that we've been living with are going to change.

"And what I see here is largely a projection forward of assumptions that were relevant to the past, but may not be relevant, or as relevant, in the future," he said.

The Cole Harbour resident suggested the commission is jumping to the conclusion that another bridge or tunnel is needed, "when, in fact, maybe the easiest solution is to eliminate some of the bottlenecks for the current facilities, like the toll booths."

Matt Duffy of Eastern Passage said he thinks Halifax Regional Municipality's transportation system as a whole needs an overhaul, including a close look at the efficiency of the city's buses and ferries.

But bridge commission representatives assured the audience they are open to other options and are taking transportation across the municipality into consideration. They said their findings are based on a needs assessment requested by city council in 2007 and subsequently carried out by independent consultants.

"The report outlines the significant transportation challenges facing HRM from now through 2036," the commission's website says. "Traffic volumes will increase, even with the most optimistic targets in increased public transit use being achieved, to the point where there is an expected need for additional cross-harbour capacity."

Go to www.thechronicleherald.ca to read more. Four more workshops are being held to garner public feedback, with the next one set for Tuesday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Dartmouth Sportsplex.

According to the commission, 32 million vehicles cross the A. Murray MacKay and Angus L. Macdonald bridges annually, up from 24 million in 1981.

( klipscombe@herald.ca)

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Workshops to get input on need for third bridge Halifax meetings set for Nov. 25, 26

This article originally appeared in The Chronicle Herald. By AMY PUGSLEY FRASER Staff Reporter Thu. Nov 13 - 7:20 AM

HALIFAX - The Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission is test driving the need for a third Halifax Harbour span.

In March, the commission said an early-stage analysis suggested a new tunnel or bridge might be required as soon as 2016 based on growth patterns.

Now it's hosting a series of workshops to gather public input and has sent out invitations to 15,000 homes in the Halifax, Dartmouth, Cole Harbour and Bedford areas.

"We wanted to make sure that people from the community had an opportunity to hear the results of the needs assessment," bridge commission spokeswoman Alison MacDonald said last week.

With 32 million vehicles crossing the A. Murray MacKay and Angus L. Macdonald bridges each year, up from about 24 million in 1981, the spans are going to need some help, the assessment concluded.

But the bridge idea - which could link Highway 111 in Woodside with the CN rail cut at the south-end Halifax container terminal - isn't carved in stone, MacDonald said.

The commission is also looking for feedback on what it could do to delay the need for another crossing.

"We don't want to build this third harbour crossing unless it absolutely needs to be built. And the community has a role to play in that."

Increasing bus ridership is one possibility. Charging more to let peak-time travellers cross the bridges could reduce congestion too, she said.

Mayor Peter Kelly says he's keen to know what can be done to put off the need for a third span.

"Do I see an explicit need at this point in time? No," he said in an interview Wednesday.

"I would not want to see (the province) spend up to $1.4 billion until we look at what we can do, collectively, within our own structure, without always having to look at a cost allocation that could really set us back for a long time."

The bridge itself would be a provincial responsibility but the city could be on the hook for infrastructure costs, he said.

Kelly said he'd like to see alternatives investigated.

The workshops, from 7 to 9 p.m., will be held on Nov. 12 at Cole Harbour Place, Nov. 18 at Dartmouth Sportsplex, Nov. 19 at Basinview Drive Community School in Bedford, Nov. 25 at St. James Anglican Church in Halifax and Nov. 26 at the Spryfield Lions Den.

( apugsley@herald.ca)

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Plan to pave railway cut has plenty of flaws

ROGER TAYLOR Sat. Nov 8 - 6:27 AM

IT MAY come as a surprise to some, but Peter MacKay says he considers paving the railway cut through south-end Halifax to be progress.

As the federal minister in charge of the Atlantic Gateway project, MacKay's opinion carries substantial weight when it comes to dealing with port matters.

And that fact alone has a lot of people concerned they will be saddled with an expensive project that disrupts their lives but really doesn't do much to improve the viability of the Halterm container terminal near Point Pleasant Park.

The gateway project aims to replicate the Pacific Gateway in British Columbia. Here in Atlantic Canada, MacKay is in charge of federal money to be spent on infrastructure improvements, which will encourage shippers to use an Atlantic trade route for goods coming from the Far East via the Suez Canal.

I don't know who originally came up with the idea of paving the railway cut, but it seems to me there are plenty of flaws with the plan.

Foremost on the list is a strong suspicion that the new truck route will do little to improve efficiency.

Residents of the south end are worried their property values will decline as a result of trucks travelling along the rail cut day and night. And considering some of the most expensive homes in the city are located in that part of Halifax, it is expected that residents will put up serious opposition.

I've heard unofficial estimates that the cost of making the necessary changes would be $40 million to $60 million and that the work would likely infringe on the properties of about 80 homeowners along the route.

CN owns the rail cut and since it is in direct competition with truckers, it isn't likely to be easy to negotiate the right for trucks to get to and from the container terminal using the railway's right of way.

As I understand the plan, the truck route would be one way, with trucks travelling south for a designated period and then the signals would be switched to allow trucks to travel north. That means a giant parking lot will have to be built at both ends to allow truckers to park their rigs while waiting their turn to travel the railway cut, and no one seems to know where those marshalling yards would be.

The provincial government has already indicated it wants to formally study the proposal, but now that the minister says he wants the project to go ahead, it seems like it may already be a done deal.

Worried people are coming up with all kinds of suggestions to get around the idea of paving the railway cut. One persistent suggestion is the idea of moving Halterm over to the Dartmouth side of the harbour, where there would be easy access to both highway and rail routes, presumably for the same amount of money as the railway cut proposal.

There many more ideas out there, but I'm not sure anyone in government is listening.

If the terminal was moved to Woodside on the Dartmouth side, it would also achieve the most appealing part of the rail-cut idea by taking heavy truck traffic out of downtown Halifax.

Everyone will agree that it is important to get moving on efforts to improve the railway lines and roads at key ports, as MacKay proposes. But it is important that efforts to make our important transportation links more efficient aren't just another highway to nowhere.

( rtaylor@herald.ca)

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Reader Comments

Halifax rail cut should be paved, MacKay says Project benefits would outweigh residentsí concerns, minister says

By AMY PUGSLEY FRASER City Hall Reporter Thu. Nov 6 - 6:47 PM

Peter MacKay supports paving Halifaxís south-end rail cut for truck traffic, even if it comes at a price for homeowners in the area.

"Well, you know, progress: It comes at a cost," the Central Nova MP told The Chronicle Herald in a recent interview at his Hollis Street office.

Mr. MacKay, in charge of the newly created Atlantic Gateway portfolio, said people who live along the cut have to look at the overall good of the project.

"One of the things I am very sensitive to and cautious about, in everything I say and do around Gateway, is that this is a regional project," he said.

"Itís not Halifax Gateway or Melford or Charlottetown or St. Johnís. Itís the Atlantic Gateway and we have to market it that way."

The Atlantic Gateway project focuses on increasing trade among the four Atlantic provinces and Europe and Asia.

Itís essential to improve infrastructure at key ports, on railway lines and on roads, and itís time to get moving on those projects, Mr. MacKay said.

"We have to seize on the opportunity right now," he said.

Mr. MacKay said funds are urgently needed for developments such as the multimillion-dollar paving of the rail cut to give port container truck traffic a route out of town.

Premier Rodney MacDonald "has identified some of his priorities, including a corridor here in Halifax and highway spending," he said. "Thereís money thatís been identified in the budget, and thatís not going to be taken away."

The Pacific Gateway has already received the "lionís share" of gateway spending, Mr. MacKay said, "and they have their cranes in place . . . so we have to seize on the opportunity right now."

Close to 80 homeowners live along the banks of the railway line from the south-end container port to the Bicentennial Highway.

The councillor who represents the area said people are not having a knee-jerk reaction to the news that truck traffic may soon accompany the sound of trains that run below their windows.

"Theyíre not saying, ĎNot in my backyard.í Theyíre saying, ĎShow us the business case,í " Coun. Sue Uteck (Northwest Arm-South End) said Wednesday.

Like the constituents she represents at city hall, she wants more research into the economics of the plan.

"You can spend all that money you want to pave that rail cut, but no one wants to talk about the elephant in the room, which is the lack of production at the port of Halifax and the decreased service by CN," Ms. Uteck said.

"Iím not saying no to the possibility and of course there are always going to be unhappy people, but I donít want to throw taxpayersí money away without doing (the business case)."

The idea isnít exactly environmentally friendly either, she said. "Running trucks in one area 24 hours a day is not clean and green."

The province is awaiting a study on an integrated transportation corridor, expected in early 2009. Mayor Peter Kelly said the municipality supports the research and he is eager to see the results.

"I canít see this project going ahead if thereís not any prescribed benefit," he said. "If there are no benefits, why would we do it?"

( apugsley@herald.ca)

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Reader Comments

Ecology Action Centre questions rail-cut study; Province says it just wants up-to-date data

By TOM PETERS Business Reporter Thu. Oct 30 - 4:47 AM

The province's call for a study on the CN rail cut in south-end Halifax appears to be nothing more than a means to justify converting the cut into a major truck corridor, says the Ecology Action Centre.

Jen Powley, spokeswoman for the centre's sustainable transportation committee, said Wednesday it is "kind of odd the province is making its own study," considering Halifax Regional Municipality did a study that concluded using the cut for rail and trucks was not feasible.

Last week the province said it is seeking proposals to determine the feasibility of using the rail cut as an integrated transportation corridor. The province says the corridor would reduce downtown truck traffic, which mainly moves through the city to the Halterm container terminal, and would support development of Canada's Atlantic Gateway program.

"We want to have the most up-to-date and comprehensive information to help us make the right decision as we aggressively pursue the opportunities presented by the Atlantic Gateway initiative," Angus MacIsaac, minister responsible for the gateway program, said last week.

Developing the rail cut for truck traffic was on Premier Rodney MacDonald's list of gateway projects announced earlier this year.

There have been studies done over the years on the use of the CN-owned rail cut with the thought of developing it to allow large trucks to use the route as well.

But a study carried out by MariNova Consulting Ltd. for Halifax Regional Municipality said paving the rail cut would only accommodate one-way traffic and spending $40 million to achieve that goal was not worth the expense.

MariNova recommended an inland terminal served by rail shuttle. A site was identified in Waverley, but that idea has since been scuttled by the municipality in favour of a logistics park in Burnside that would be accessible by both truck and rail.

David Oxner, the province's gateway program director, said in September a rail-cut study would "look at the pros and cons and all variables in full detail."

Ms. Powley said another concern is the schedule for the study.

"The timeline on the study is incredibly tight. . . . They want a study within three to four months," she said.

Experts in the field have told The Chronicle Herald that a detailed study on the rail cut, looking at the possibility of trucks and other vehicles using the route, would likely take more than a year.

The province's planned study would also consider possible greenway features, including trails for cyclists and pedestrians. But Ms. Powley said she doubted people would want to walk or ride their bikes beside tractor-trailers in an enclosed area.

The Ecology Action Centre said in a release that it is "pleased the province recognizes the impact of truck traffic on downtown Halifax but asks why yet another major roadway has to be built when a solution has already been proposed, using existing infrastructure."

( tpeters@herald.ca)

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Do we really want the province taking these steps?

ROGER TAYLOR Sat. Oct 25 - 11:35 AM

...Earlier this week city council rejected Armour Groupís Waterside Centre development, which tried to marry heritage structures with a modern office building. ... At a time when weíre about to enter an economic recession, Halifax and Nova Scotia can hardly afford to squander an opportunity to have a multimillion-dollar investment simply disappear.

But itís not as if the provincial governmentís judgment is much of an improvement over that of city council. For example, the MacDonald government says it wants to spend an untold amount of money investigating construction of a trucking route along the rail corridor in peninsular Halifax.

The government seems to think building a highway next to an existing rail line is advanced thinking, because it would stop the bulk of heavy truck traffic, which serves the Halterm container terminal in the cityís south end, from passing through the downtown ó by coincidence right past the site of the proposed Waterside Centre.

The government says it wants the most up-to-date and comprehensive information to help it make the right decisions, and thatís why it needs to study the project again.

Iíve heard the Tory government has an opinion poll that suggests building the truck highway, along with a bike trail in the railway right-of-way, could be a "wedge issue" that could be used by the Tories to differentiate themselves from opponents in the next provincial election.

If thatís true, weíll have to see how successful that strategy is.

Rather than being ahead of the curve, as it says it wants to be, this government doesnít seem to realize building a new truck highway through the city is actually a step backwards.

The high price of gasoline has come down recently, but there is little doubt this is only a brief reprieve from high prices.

Instead of promoting more truck and automobile transportation in the city, Nova Scotia should be looking at ways of using the rail cut through the south end to promote the more efficient rail option for ferrying containers from the downtown.

All in all, it hasnít been a great week for political leadership in Nova Scotia at any level.

( rtaylor@herald.ca)

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Province to study truck corridor for Halifax

Last Updated: Thursday, October 23, 2008 | 1:24 PM AT The Canadian Press

Posted on CBC Nova Scotia website: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nova-scotia/story/2008/10/23/train-corridor-study.html

Nova Scotia's provincial government is going to do a detailed study on the idea of adding a truck lane to the CN train corridor that runs through Halifax, Economic Development Minister Angus MacIsaac announced Thursday.

The goal is to reduce traffic congestion in the centre of the city, make the port more efficient and possibly add a bikeway and footpath to the 6.8-kilometre rail cut between the Halterm terminals and the Bedford Basin.

The province will also look at adding public transit to the corridor.

MacIsaac said the study will indicate the exact price tag on the project, though in earlier estimates the changes to the rail corridor have been estimated at about $80 million.

The port has struggled this year, as shipping lines have departed amid complaints over train service.

In July, the port announced cargo shipments had fallen 16 per cent compared to the previous year. Also, CN - the lone rail operator in the city - announced it planned to cut back daily service from two trains to a single train.

MacIsaac said he expects that a truck corridor could assist the port in becoming more attractive to shipping lines.

"This initiative, if it were to materialize, would, in our view, assist the port of Halifax in becoming more competitive than is currently the case," he said.

The project is part of a wide-ranging collection of transportation improvements being proposed to Ottawa as part of the Atlantic Gateway Initiative - ranging from harbour dredging in Sydney through to doubling highways along several major routes in Atlantic Canada.

Nova Scotia NDP Leader Darrell Dexter said the Halifax corridor project may be worthwhile, but he wondered if it would do much to solve the port's problem of declining traffic.

"A lot of people are going to ask themselves, 'What does this actually do to increase the amount of business that's going to come into the port?'" said Dexter.

"That's the question the study may address. But I didn't really see it as one of the considerations being outlined."

MacIsaac said he expects federal funding will be available through the Atlantic Gateway Initiative, and he adds the province will pay the cost of the study on its own.

However, MacIsaac said he couldn't explicitly announce the federal involvement because the new Conservative government has yet to be sworn in.

Bids to complete the study are due in mid November.

CN hasn't indicated yet whether it will grant title to the land, if the project proceeds.

© The Canadian Press, 2008

Reader Comments

N.S. seeks proposals on city truck route

By JEFFREY SIMPSON Staff Reporter Fri. Oct 24 - 4:46 AM

The province wants to take another look at adding a trucking route to the rail corridor in peninsular Halifax, Economic Development Minister Angus MacIsaac said Thursday.

Nova Scotia is calling for proposals from firms interested in studying how worthwhile it would be to build a road alongside the 6.8-kilometre stretch of CN rail tracks that snake through the city from the Halterm container port.

"We want to have the most up-to-date and comprehensive information to help us make the right decisions," Mr. MacIsaac said.

Mr. MacIsaac said adding that the road would hopefully improve the transportation of goods to and from the port and make Halifax more competitive for container ship business. It could also reduce heavy truck traffic in downtown Halifax and provide opportunities for public transportation and recreation.

"We want to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the competitiveness of our ports," Mr. MacIsaac said.

Mr. MacIsaac said the province is confident Ottawa will contribute funding for the project, although there's no such promise yet.

Transport Canada, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the four provinces agreed last October in Halifax to spend two years hashing out a number of issues for developing an Atlantic Gateway, including potential effects on the region's transportation system and partnerships with the private sector.

The federal government has set aside $2.1 billion over seven years for gateways and corridor projects.

"Our companies rely on this transportation network to get their goods to market," Mr. MacIsaac said.

"We know that by strengthening the position of the gateway our whole province and region stand to benefit in this competitive and evolving marketplace."

But business at the container terminal has dropped significantly this year.

"We need to ensure that the port of Halifax is very efficient," Mr. MacIsaac said. "We need to do everything we can to allow it to make that claim."

NDP Leader Darrell Dexter questioned whether the cost of the project, which has been estimated at about $80 million, would be the best way to bolster business at the port.

"There's a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing here," he said.

"Do you want the traffic first or do you want the infrastructure first to carry that traffic?"

Coun. Sue Uteck (Northwest Arm-South End) said there have been several studies already, including one in 2007 which concluded it wasn't very feasible.

"You're raising the ire of a lot of the members of the public."

She said nothing will be possible unless the company is prepared to co-operate on the project because it owns the land, pointing out CN has reduced daily service from two trains to one.

"Nobody wants to talk about the elephant in the room, which is CN," she said.

"That has to be addressed before any study."

The deadline for submissions is Nov. 14 and the feasibility study itself is expected to be completed in January.

The study is expected to cost several hundred thousand dollars and examine several factors, including the project's total cost, possible economic benefits and environmental impacts.

( jsimpson@herald.ca)

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Integrated Transportation Corridor Study

Request for Proposals

Halifax Gateway Council

Mention of rail cut paving idea gets Uteckís dander up

By AMY PUGSLEY FRASER City Hall Reporter Wed. May 28 - 4:32 AM

Talk of the cityís efforts to secure the Atlantic Gateway project had Coun. Sue Uteck (Northwest Arm-South End) railing Tuesday night.

Councillors were debating the merits of endorsing, in principle, a plan to put aside space in Burnside Park in Dartmouth for a "Gateway distribution park."

The intermodal facility, between Highway 107 and Akerley Boulevard, would be the intermediary point for railed-in shipís cargo from the south-end Halifax port before itís loaded onto trucks.

Such a move would cut down on the truck traffic in the south end, diverting 40 per cent of the trucks in 2009 and 49.1 per cent by 2028, says the report.

Although the Burnside distribution park was endorsed in principle by council, Ms. Uteck wanted to know why the report referred to the provinceís recent idea to pave the cityís rail cut for truck traffic.

Quoting from the report, Ms. Uteck said "the creation of a truckway within the existing south-end rail corridor was examined in 2007 . . . but dismissed at that time as economically ineffective, given the operation constraints set by CN. However . . . the concept of a truckway may still prove to be viable."

Ms. Uteck says perpetuating the idea of putting traffic in the railway cut ó which the report estimates would cost $40 million ó is not fair to residents.

"To have a line (in the report) that has implications for 79 homes in my district on the railway cut, to me, is a little on the irresponsible side."

She requested that Mayor Peter Kelly write a letter to the province asking what has changed since last year to make the idea so "wonderful."

Coun. Sheila Fougere (Connaught-Quinpool) wanted the city to ask the province to involve municipal councillors who have the railway line running through their districts.

"It has direct and serious impact on residential uses in that area and many people donít realize that . . . in many places, itís actually above grade and runs above peopleís houses and right through their backyards."

But Coun. Dawn Sloane (Halifax Downtown) says she thinks that paving the rail cut for use by trucks and commuter buses is an idea worth looking into.

The councillor said that the truck traffic on Lower Water Street has affected her district for a long time and alternatives should be looked at.

"It doesnít hurt to explore something."

However, chief administrative officer Dan English said the decision was not councilís to make.

"The province is going to be examining it. Itís not councilís decision to say no, other than our involvement."

( apugsley@herald.ca)



soxfan wrote:

Ah nice to see Utech is back to the complaining once again.It is hard to believe one person can complain so much.Rarely have the public heard a positive word from this woman.I guess that the south end is the only arera of HRM that matters to this woman.God help us is she ever becomes Mayor.

Retired wrote:

Railed-in ship's cargo to the container pier and then loaded on to ships. Railed-in ship's cargo to Burnside , loaded onto trucks to take to the container pier and then loaded on to ships.Seems like there would be more truck traffic in downtown Halifax.

Billp wrote:

The present system of having trucks going through domntown Halifax/residential area has to go . Having trucks going through the rail cut would have ZERO if little more niose on the south end . Its time they stop wrecking the economy of HRM .

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Gateway Ships Wonít Come In For Five Years

26 May, 2008 - http://allnovascotia.com

Atlantic Gateway DistriPark Plan

May 12, 2008 - Staff Report to Council and Executive Summary of Plan

In summary, the Atlantic Gateway DistriPark:

  • has the potential to reduce the impact of growing truck traffic on city streets;
  • can be commercially viable from an operating perspective;
  • is located in an industrial area that does not appear to have any significant negative environmental or neighbourhood impacts;
  • is consistent with the Portís strategy to attract transload facilities to Halifax;
  • is compatible with the long term plans of the Burnside Industrial Park;
  • is a sustainable solution to the desire of HRM and many other stakeholders to reduce the numbers of trucks on Halifax Peninsula; and
  • uses the rail cut for a rail shuttle.

Premier to drivers: Take the bus

Tories vow to fulfil promise of credits for transit use but wonít say when

By AMY SMITH Provincial Reporter

Sat. Apr 26 - 11:59 AM

Extract from article on Premier's comments on rail cut, plus supporting response to rail cut proposal from website reader.

Steel Rail Blues: A truckway through the rail-cut

This is a website, created by a King's journalism student, featuring coverage of the truckway proposal and various issues affecting the Port of Halifax, and including interviews of residents along the rail cut.

By Sarah Metherall, a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Kingís College

Big projects miss the bigger picture


Wed. Apr 9 - 6:18 AM

Cars vs transit: Halifax's transportation future could include A new cross-harbour bridge, a south end highway, ferries and buses

by Tim Bousquet

April 03, 2008

A $1.1 billion six-lane bridge connecting south end Halifax to Woodside is just one in a series of radical changes to local transportation systems proposed in recent weeks.

The proposals---including a fast ferry to Bedford, placing a highway in the south end rail cut and the introduction of rural bus service, among others---raise fundamental questions about how Halifax goes about moving people around.

Last week, the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission issued a study outlining what it says is the need for a third harbour crossing before 2016. The study looked at current traffic patterns and expected growth, especially in the Eastern Passage area.

"If we do nothing, we'll see more greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles idling in congestion," says John Robinson, lead author of the study. "And buses don't move any faster either," as they'll be stuck in traffic.

Commission CEO Steve Snider outlines a fanciful "transit loop," with two traffic lanes dedicated exclusively to transit through the rail cut, across the new bridge, onto the Circumferential Highway around Dartmouth and across the MacKay Bridge.

But those visions aside, the study says that a new harbour crossing will result in an increase of about 20,000 single-vehicle trips daily across the harbour.

"Shifts to transit will never be as great as the growth of HRM," says Dave McCusker, manager of Halifax's transportation planning department, who participated in the study. No matter by what percentage transit ridership increases, he says, "the total number of [automobile] commuters will not go down."

If that's the case, isn't the bridge commission, a provincial crown corporation, in effect violating the provincial Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act, which mandates a 10 percent decrease below 1990 levels in greenhouse gas emissions by 2020?

"No," says McCusker. "Those reductions will come with increased engine efficiency."

Asked where 10,000 new cars each day will go once they're on the peninsula, McCusker says that he envisions the bridge connecting to the four-lane highway through the rail cut that was proposed by premier Rodney Macdonald last month. That roadway would stretch to a new intersection with Robie Street, near where Robie presently dead-ends at Saint Mary's University.

And where will the 10,000 additional cars will be stored? There are presently about 8,000 parking spaces in the downtown and waterfront areas, explains Roxane MacInnis, transportation demand management planner with the city.

MacInnis is preparing a long-term parking strategy that adheres to the principles outlined in the Halifax Regional Plan adopted by council last year. Basically, it will call for fewer, not more, parking spaces.

Both McCusker and mayor Peter Kelly maintain that increasing transit use now will delay the necessity of a third harbour crossing. But the bridge commission did not consider transit-only options, such as a fast ferry to Eastern Passage, as part of its study.

Kelly did, however, push a measure dedicating $13 million in federal transit funds for the Bedford fast ferry through a secret meeting of the council, overriding concerns that the money could be better used on other transit projects, such as extended MetroLink service.

"That's just politics, and I wish they would cut it out," says Kelly, discounting the criticism.

Pointing at new rules that dedicate five cents of the existing gas tax to municipalities, or about $25 million annually for HRM, Kelly says that "if council chooses, it can fund every transit program we've looked at---it can expand MetroLink, buy new buses, start the rural bus service, build a new bus garage. Everything it wants, with the new gas tax revenue."

But since the $13 million in federal transit funds has to be spent on transit, while the gas tax money can be divvied up between any number of capital projects, including new roads, doesn't directing the transit money to the ferry result in the other projects becoming political footballs in a contest with road construction over gas tax money?

"That's what we do here," says Kelly. "It's all politics. Council has to decide where to spend that money."


© Copyright 2008 Coast Publishing Ltd

HRM traffic management open for debate


Sat. Apr 5 - 6:06 AM

It has been just over a week since we reported to Halifax regional council, and members of the public, the results of a study to determine what effect the current and future cross-harbour traffic flows are having on our transportation infrastructure. I am very encouraged by the level of debate and discussion this information has sparked in our community since its release.

As chairman of the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission, I have heard numerous members of the community encourage the commission to be proactive, through letters to the editor and the writings of some of The Chronicle Heraldís columnists, Internet discussion forums, phone-in radio shows and "man-on-the-street" interviews on television. HRMís citizens are making their voices heard on the topic of transportation demand management.

I might just explain quickly what I mean by traffic, or transportation, demand management. In simple terms, this really means reducing the amount of traffic or transportation Ė lessening the "demand" for use of transportation infrastructure like the harbour bridges. Itís similar to when the power company talks about energy efficiency, using off-peak power and energy conservation Ė they are also forms of demand management.

This matter Ė how we manage the increasing demand for transportation in this municipality Ė is one of the greatest challenges facing our governments and our people. The response we make to this challenge will impact greatly on our environment, our economy, our development patterns and the overall look, feel and composition of the HRM.

Those who have made the point that it is premature to have a proposal on the table to build a third harbour crossing are correct; it is premature.

This is one of the reasons I feel compelled to note that there is no blueprint, no proposal and no plan to build a third harbour crossing on the table or under discussion at this time.

The report that McCormick Rankin Corporation conducted for the bridge commission, at HRMís request, is a part of sound, long-term strategic planning. It is a very thorough report that offers options for the politicians, business community and bridge users to consider.

This study makes clear the challenge facing transportation planners and users of the Halifax Harbour bridges. It illustrates the need for a co-ordinated approach to transportation demand management in our region, and province, in the coming years.

As responsible stewards of our environment, and as the overseers of two key transportation links in this province, we cannot overlook the impact that growing congestion on the bridges and bridge approaches has for our environment, or our economy.

One of the most consistent issues to be raised in this discussion is the impact that public transit can and will have on reducing single-vehicle traffic in HRM. We see great opportunity for a world-class transit system in this municipality. But let there be no doubt, we have a long, long way to go to achieve this goal.

The GPI Atlantic study released a few weeks ago confirms Statistics Canadaís analysis that there are fewer than 12 per cent of us in HRM who use public transit to commute to and from work. The HRM regional plan sets a goal of achieving 23 per cent ridership by 2026. The Ottawa region, by contrast, has invested billions to achieve a 22 per cent ridership regionwide to become North Americaís public transit leader.

Even if this aggressive 23 per cent ridership goal is achieved in HRM, there will be serious congestion on our roadways and bridges at that time, according to all current projections.

This knowledge compels us to understand the reality, then, that increased public transit usage cannot be the only solution if those buses are stuck in traffic with everyone else.

At the bridge commission, we will do our part to manage traffic demand, and will work with governments and other stakeholders to achieve this goal. In the coming months, we will:

  • Host a workshop with stakeholders to discuss how to promote active transportation, including cycling and walking;
  • Examine how promotion of carpooling and ride-shares will affect congestion; and
  • Look into the experience of other jurisdictions that have introduced peak pricing or variable pricing to manage peak-hour travel demand.

The bridge commission has referred the needs assessment report to the strategic joint regional transportation planning committee, which includes representatives of the province of Nova Scotia, HRM and transportation users. This committee will be able to consider the results of this study as part of the broader transportation planning initiatives that are now, or will soon be, underway.

We encourage readers to look at the report, and offer their perspective, by visiting:


Tom Calkin is chairman of the board of commissioners of the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission, a provincial agency that reports to the Nova Scotia legislature through the minister of finance.

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Halifax needs new leader, not new bridge


Sat. Mar 29 - 6:10 AM

LETíS SPEND a billion bucks to jam up the Halifax peninsula with cars.

This notion seems to be at the heart of a study released this week by the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission, which is looking at construction of a Chunnel or new bridge connecting the peninsula and Dartmouth.

Whatís wrong with floating this trial balloon?

To begin with, it is filled with greenhouse gases Ė from future car emissions.

If you like, you can forget the fact that the more progressive cities on the planet Ė from London to Bogota Ė have taken radical steps to keep cars out of their city centres.

You can also ignore the fact that the rationale for building a third harbour crossing assumes Ė with a singular lack of imagination Ė that existing traffic flow trends will more or less continue into the future.

Put all that aside, and youíre still left with a simple problem: A third harbour crossing is a stupid idea.

In fairness to the consultants who looked at this project, Iíll say that their report is better than I hoped it would be.

It repeatedly highlights the need to make better use of public transit in the city I insist on calling Halifax. (OK, I could live with "Greater Halifax" as a replacement for the ugly moniker HRM.)

The consultants also note, correctly, that you save on fuel and greenhouse gas emissions by speeding up traffic.

And you can speed up traffic by building a bridge or tunnel from the Woodside area to the south-end container pier near Point Pleasant Park.

But you could save a heck of a lot more greenhouse gas emissions Ė and grief Ė by cutting back on Halifax vehicle traffic instead of promoting it, which is what a third bridge or harbour tunnel would do.

In addition, no one seems to have figured out what to do with all that traffic once you entice it onto the peninsula.

In this way, the notion of a third bridge shares a strange similarity with the proposal to widen Chebucto Road on the city side of what we used to call the Armdale Rotary.

The underlying assumption seems to be that moving the traffic bottleneck a little closer to downtown is a splendid idea Ė worthy, in the case of another crossing, of spending a billion dollars.

This fantasy is supported by a look at growing traffic trends and anticipated population growth.

Back in 1999, there were 25 days when more than 100,000 vehicles crossed the harbour bridges. In 2007, the bridges endured that volume of traffic on 164 days.

Yep, trafficís up.

Is there anything we can do about this damaging trend except encourage it?

London, England, rid "The City" of gridlock by effectively charging a tax on cars that dared drive there. Bogota introduced a modern transit system and encouraged walking.

Both cities, as a result of some progressive reforms, are more livable than they were Ė and the public verdict was positive in both places after the initial hubbub had died down.

In Halifax, we should have more people living downtown. This report says the peninsula is home to 60,000 people Ė and 80,000 jobs.

Better transit would also be good, along with some kind of tax on people driving into the city (as in London).

Thatís what we need. What do we get instead?

Peter Kelly.

The mayor was at his myopic best this week.

When he was asked to respond to this report, he in essence said three things.

1. The bridge commission is the responsibility of the provincial government.

Translation: Itís not my job to deal with this one.

2. The idea of a third bridge crossing is worth considering.

Translation: Donít expect me to have an opinion or an idea. Heck, Iím only the mayor.

3. The project could be costly and "there are a lot of unknowns."

Translation: As a man who has built a cautious career on prevarication, I love unknowns.

Myself, I figure the biggest unknown in this city is just what the mayor thinks about the issues.

So, to sum it all up:

A third harbour link is a bad idea.

And weíd have a great city here, if only we could find someone to lead it.

( jmeek@herald.ca)

Jim Meek Column - Reader Comments

Letters to Editor on Bridge Proposal - March 29

Letters to Editor on Truckway Proposal

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

3rd bridge near end of priority list

By ROGER TAYLOR Business Columnist Wed. Mar 26 - 6:41 AM

NOVA SCOTIANS regularly complain about a lack of leadership in the province, and there are plenty of examples to back up that feeling.

There are all kinds of groups with proposals that require spending tax dollars on infrastructure, but there doesnít seem to be anybody who knows exactly how those plans will work to maximize benefits to the public.

The latest example is the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commissionís plans for a third harbour bridge.

Infrastructure is a nebulous term that is used regularly to justify public spending on all kinds of things, but typically it refers to the building of structures and structural improvements that form a foundation for further development.

The word was employed frequently by the major supporters of the Halifax bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games until the provincial government wisely withdrew funding for the project. The big backers of the Games bid argued that spending more than $1 billion in public money on the event was justified because of the economic spinoff and infrastructure that would be left as a legacy for the Halifax region and the province.

While the word often gets bandied about, infrastructure work usually means improvements to sewers, roads, bridges and public utility installations, such as waste-water and water works, electric power, communications, transit and transportation facilities, and oil and gas pipelines and associated facilities.

On Tuesday, the bridge commission made a presentation to city council, advocating construction of a third crossing over or under Halifax Harbour. There is nothing new here; the bridge commission has been floating the idea for a least a year.

The new link would likely connect south-end Halifax with the Circumferential Highway in Dartmouthís east end. But I wonder just how a third crossing is supposed to fit in with the municipalityís desire for a downtown Halifax less focused on vehicles and the plan to create greater residential density in the downtown.

Does the idea of building a third link across the harbour relate to Premier Rodney MacDonaldís plan to build a truck highway next to the existing railway line that cuts through the south end? I doubt it.

How would it interfere with the financing of a high-speed ferry from Bedford?

When talk surfaced last year that the bridge commission was bored with just taking care of the cityís two existing bridges and wanted something more exciting to do ó such as building another bridge ó the province should have told the commission, which it controls, to reconsider.

This calls into question the relevance of maintaining a separate bridge commission. While there may have been a good reason for such a commission at one time, there is also a danger in having a single-purpose organization in such a position of power.

Commission members only seem to understand a need for a new bridge and donít have to consider how that might fit in with reducing the number of cars on Halifax roads or undertaking other projects that may have a higher priority for the public.

Conspiracy theorists have told me they believe the effort behind building a third harbour crossing really isnít serious; instead, itís an exercise to support consultants and engineers who would be asked to study such a project. In fact, the commission has spent or is spending $300,000 on a study to evaluate the options for a new crossing.

There are all kinds of projects on which taxpayersí funds would be better spent, and the list is long.

The last thing Halifax needs right now is a costly bridge project. This wonít be the first time Iíve suggested it, but it may be time to disband the bridge commission and hand over the duties of looking after the bridges to the Transportation Department or a regional transportation authority, which would look at various transportation options in metro.

Right now, the idea of improving the transit system in metro doesnít seem to enter the thinking of the bridge commission.

( rtaylor@herald.ca)

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Tunnel or third bridge proposed Report: $1.1-billion link would join Woodside to south-end rail cut

By AMY PUGSLEY FRASER City Hall Reporter Wed. Mar 26 - 6:56 AM

Halifax may one day have its own Chunnel or a new bridge.

With Halifaxís population growth and traffic congestion, metro may need a new south-end bridge or tunnel as early as 2016 to complement the A. Murray MacKay and the Angus L. Macdonald bridges, the bridge commission said Tuesday.

The existing bridges, built in 1970 and 1955 respectively, arenít going to be able to handle the increasing traffic volume much longer.

With 32 million vehicles crossing the spans each year, up from about 24 million in 1981, the bridges are going to need some help, said Tom Calkin, chairman of the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission.

The debate over whether metro needs a $1.1-billion, six-lane bridge or a $1.4-billion, four-lane tunnel has yet to be played out.

But the best place for the third Halifax Harbour crossing has already been chosen.

The new connector could link Highway 111 in Woodside with the CN rail cut at the south-end container terminal.

The province has already said it plans to pave the south-end rail cut to accommodate trucks servicing the container pier as part of the Atlantic Gateway project. A study, done four years ago, revealed that the cost to pave and widen that could be as high as $50 million.

In addition to construction costs for the new crossing and its approaches, land ownership issues would have to be resolved.

Mr. Calkin said expropriation is an option.

He hosted a media briefing Tuesday afternoon in advance of a presentation to regional council in the evening.

In 2006, city hall asked the commission to get a study done. The tender for the early-stage analysis, at a cost of about $375,000, was awarded last March to Delphi-MRC.

The report outlines that, at one point, 23 possible locations for the crossing were contemplated. The number was reduced to six.

In addition to the south-end bridge or tunnel, the possibilities also include twinning the MacKay bridge on its north or south side.

Traffic patterns show, however, that the desired crossing should be located closer to the institutions that commuters are trying to reach, including hospitals, universities and downtown Halifaxís financial sector.

Another option suggested two tunnels to accommodate rapid transit only.

The combined seven lanes on both bridges represent almost 30 per cent of the 22 entry points onto the Halifax peninsula. Growing commuter congestion is clogging those arteries, the report said.

In 1999, there were only 25 days in which more than 100,000 vehicles crossed the bridges.

Last year, there were 164 such days, the commissionís chief engineer told reporters. But when you take out weekends, holidays and summer vacation periods, the 164-day total represents 85 per cent of possible peak-traffic days, Jon Eppell said.

"We are approaching the ceiling," Mr. Eppell said. "Itís an inevitable reality that an additional crossing has to be considered."

He said there are a few options that could delay the need for a third crossing.

Increasing bus ridership is one possibility.

The city has about 12 per cent of commuters taking the bus. If that number could be increased to 18 per cent or even 23 per cent, the need for a third crossing could be put off for a few years.

As well, charging more to let peak-time travellers cross the bridges could create a staggered effect in bridge traffic use, Mr. Eppell said.

Planning should start now for a crossing that will be needed between 2016 and 2026, he said.

The studies that must be done beforehand could take years to complete, Mr. Eppell said, and construction could take up to four years.

"It may seem premature to some people that we are discussing this," said Steve Snider, the commissionís executive director. "But we need to take steps now. We canít leave it all to chance."

The MLA who represents Halifaxís south end says itís irresponsible for public officials to float "trial balloons" that create uncertainty and angst.

"It will destroy the neighbourhood . . . and create a public thoroughfare," Leonard Preyra said Tuesday.

"Youíre going to have trucks, youíre going to have trains and youíre going to have emergency vehicles and commuter traffic moving right across the harbour and funnelled into this very narrow rail cut that can just barely take one rail line at the moment."

Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly said the idea of a third harbour crossing is worth considering, although he added that such a project would be costly and there are "a lot of unknowns."

He said the city is willing to explore the possibility, but he noted that the final say rests with the province.

Mr. Kelly said regional council could only vote to earmark money for municipal elements of a third crossing that would need to be included in the development.

Mr. Kelly said "the two bridges now are the responsibility of the bridge commission," a provincial Crown corporation.

The mayor said if the proposal goes ahead, the municipality will need to determine its share of infrastructure costs.

But Mr. Kelly said it is premature to talk about a planned third crossing because the price tag raises "a lot of questions as to how and why, and is it needed."

Premier Rodney MacDonald said planning for metroís transportation needs is crucial. He said a potential third crossing would have to take the environment into account.

"I think what the bridge commission is doing . . . is absolutely the correct thing to do," Mr. MacDonald told CTV News.

Council approved a motion Tuesday night to send the matter to staff for a report.

To review the study completed by Delphi-MRC, click on www.needsassessment.ca.

With Michael Lightstone, staff reporter

( apugsley@herald.ca)

Reader comments on this article

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Tunnel or 3rd bridge proposed for Halifax

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 26, 2008 | 9:08 AM AT CBC News


- Includes reader commnets

Rail corridor wonít be cheap 4-year-old study estimates price tag at between $40 million and $51 million

By TOM PETERS Business Reporter Thu. Mar 20 - 6:57 AM

The cost of reconfiguring the CN rail cut from south-end Halifax to Fairview to relieve downtown Halifax truck congestion wonít be cheap, says an engineering study done four years ago.

A report by Marshall Macklin Monaghan Ltd. of Toronto and Atlantic Road and Traffic Management of Halifax looked at five options, with only two considered real possibilities.

Halifax Regional Municipality commissioned the report.

One option would cost $40 million, the second nearly $51 million. Those costs do not include allowances for replacing, rebuilding and excavating near bridges.

Costs would now be higher because of inflation. And if the project was ever done under a private-public partnership, as suggested by the province, daily operating costs for those using the corridor could be covered with a toll.

The topic of a multi-transportation corridor using the CN rail cut resurfaced when Premier Rodney MacDonald announced several weeks ago the list of projects the province would like to see included as part of the Atlantic Gateway strategy.

The cost of these projects, including the rail cut, would be in excess of $300 million, with funding coming from governments and the private sector.

Most of the downtown truck traffic comes from the Halterm container terminal. The premier said using the rail cut would move trucks away from the downtown out to Fairview, where they could connect with the Bicentennial Highway. The premier also said the corridor could be used by buses and emergency vehicles.

David McCusker, the municipalityís manager of transportation planning, said Tuesday the purpose of doing the study was to get an understanding of the project before any decisions are made.

"We did that study intentionally without the involvement of CN because we had heard it couldnít be done," he said. "We wanted to have an understanding ourselves of what could be done and what couldnít be done so it gave us some background information before we went into further discussions and negotiations with CN."

The $40-million option is a single roadway alongside the rail track. Traffic would have to follow daily direction schedules. Rail operations would not be affected.

The second option proposed two paved lanes with the rail track embedded in a traffic lane. When trains were not using the corridor, both lanes could be used for traffic. When trains were in the corridor, only one lane would handle traffic. Special traffic signals would be needed.

The first option, if used, would require a waiting area for vehicles at each end of the corridor. The cost of developing these staging areas was not included in the study.

The study also talks about additional excavation of the rail cut and a property acquisition allowance for both options. Expropriation of private land would be a possibility.

A CN spokeswoman said Wednesday there have been no formal talks with the province, but CN is open to discuss the corridor project.

Mr. MacDonald said recently the province is anxious to move forward with the work.

"We hope to get this announced in the next number of months and begin work as soon as possible, this year or next year," he told reporters after a recent cabinet meeting.

Local and international experts said Wednesday they donít believe the rail cut changes will solve the problem. They say the rail cut would just move congestion points to the edge of peninsular Halifax.

It does not address the fact that over 60 per cent of regional container traffic moves by truck from points beyond Truro. They say several other ports have addressed this type of problem by building inland ports adjacent to the main rail line in greenfield locations.

Containers would be shuttled by rail from the port to a logistics park. The concept of a logistics park in the Burnside area does not fit this model as it is not on the CN main line, said the experts, who asked not to be named. If the Gateway strategy is to succeed, there needs to be a greenfield inland facility on the CN mainline with lots of room for expansion in close proximity to Halifax, they say.

They cited the Virginia inland port as a successful example.

Stephen Greene, the premierís deputy chief of staff, said Tuesday the province "hasnít released costs on any particular piece of what was announced and the reason for that is the federal government has to come to the table."

However, he said costs in the 2004 study "are no doubt in the ballpark."

Mr. Greene said Ottawa has set aside $2.1 billion over seven years to assist funding of Gateway projects.

He said the memorandum of understanding signed last fall between Ottawa and the four Atlantic provinces outlined a process that could take up to two years just to get project lists assembled and submitted for approval.

"We in Nova Scotia have been talking and thinking about Gateway for a long time and the other provinces have not, so we are probably a lot more advanced in the development of our list of projects," he said.

He suggested it could be awhile before there are any federal announcements.

"The ball is in their court," he said.

( tpeters@herald.ca)

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Proposal might ease commute Route would divert some trucks from roads ó official By MICHAEL LIGHTSTONE Staff Reporter Sat. Mar 8 - 4:46 AM

Converting the CN rail cut in south-end Halifax to a proposed truck and bus route might slightly improve commuter traffic flow, a city hall traffic manager says.

"Some truck traffic may be taken off commuter roads," Dave McCusker said Friday about the proposal. "But itís not our expectation that commuter traffic would get access to it."

Work on creating a new route for trucks and buses using the rail cut from south-end Halifax to Fairview could begin as early as this year, Premier Rodney MacDonald said this week.

"We want to get moving on it," he said Thursday. "We hope to get this announced in the next number of months and begin work as soon as possible ó this year or next year."

But if the province is counting on federal dollars to propel the project, Ottawa may have the last word on when work begins. A Transport Canada spokesman said recently that no federal money is being offered at this point. Last year, Atlantic premiers and Ottawa signed a memorandum of understanding to develop an Atlantic Gateway as an entry and exit point for international trade. As part of the agreement, the partners agreed to spend two years hashing out various issues surrounding the gateway, including its potential effects on the regionís transportation system and partnerships with the private sector.

,b>If the rail cut plan proceeds, proponents could have a fight on their hands before construction begins. Coun. Sue Uteck (Northwest Arm-South End) has already heard concerns from area residents.

Regarding metroís commuters ó those workers who drive to peninsular Halifax from bedroom communities such as Bedford, Lower Sackville, Cole Harbour, Tantallon and Timberlea ó the idea of a rail shuttle into the city is dormant, Mr. McCusker told The Chronicle Herald last year. Commuter rail is something that Mayor Peter Kelly has campaigned on in the past.

"Even taking the issue of track ownership out," Mr. McCusker said, referring to CN Rail, "the economics just didnít make sense at all. The cost to bring (commuter train) seats into the downtown was quite high (and) the trip times are not very fast."

On Friday, Mr. McCusker said the concept isnít officially dead, but itís close.

"Through the (cityís) regional plan, we did say that we would preserve opportunities to do (commuter rail) in the future," he said, "but there are no immediate plans other than buses and ferries."

( mlightstone@herald.ca)

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Gateway plan should focus on rail By ROGER TAYLOR Business Columnist Fri. Mar 7 - 6:38 AM

I USED to think the Atlantic Gateway was a code name for a government project specifically aimed at turning Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into a major North America entry point for cargo from India and the Far East.

But it seems Nova Scotia may be working with a broader definition.

Rather than providing a means of creating a long-term strategy for specifically developing the provinceís unique potential as a major transportation hub for North America, Premier Rodney MacDonald seemed to outline a plan Wednesday that tries to achieve several short- and longer-term political goals at the same time.

For example, building a connector road linking Burnside Park in Dartmouth with Sackville Business Park has long been on the agenda for regional development.

Such a road had been proposed as a goal of several previous governments and when there wasnít enough money to justify public funding for the road, private developers had proposed building a toll highway to connect the business parks.

How does the construction of the Burnside connector tie in with the Atlantic Gateway? It does if the plan includes building a logistics park near Burnside.

Instead of the government proposing a logistics park, however, I believe the creation of such a park would work best if it was led by the private sector. If the private sector is in the lead, we will quickly learn if it also makes economic sense.To help sell the idea of public funding for a logistics park, the premier told the Halifax Chamber of Commerce that he wants to create a logistics school in conjunction with universities and community colleges.

Perhaps the logistics school should been developed prior to the government creating its list of ideas for spending Gateway money.

If the aim is to create a fast and efficient movement of containers through Nova Scotia, such a school might be able to come up with ideas that are more effective than those revealed Wednesday.

The province wants to create a paved road next to the railway tracks in south-end Halifax that would provide a quick getaway for trucks carrying containers from Halterm.

There isnít anything new about that idea either. People have been making all kinds of suggestions for the rail line that runs through the south end.

Some had wanted a walking trail to be built next to the rail line. Others thought the existing line would be ideal for commuter rail to ease congestion on the city roads leading into the south end.

The premier said the dream of providing more efficient movement of containers through the Port of Halifax by building a paved road next to the rail line will create an environmental dividend by reducing the number of idling trucks polluting the atmosphere while theyíre stuck in city traffic.

The money would also be used to finance the twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway to the Strait of Canso. Some would suggest that the highway should be twinned all the way to Sydney.

But Premier MacDonald has different priorities. He said Wednesday that the money will be used to dredge Sydney Harbour to allow for larger ships to reach that port.

There isnít any evidence dredging will lead to container ships using Sydney. But one thing is certain, if Sydney becomes a trans-shipment point, one of the bottlenecks will be inadequate roadways and rail.

In my opinion, rail should be the focus of any Atlantic Gateway concept. If used right, rail offers the most efficient and environmentally friendly movement of containers from Nova Scotia ports to delivery points inland.

Iíve been told that one of the reasons Halifax isnít attracting more traffic is the lack of a competitive rail service.

If Nova Scotia helped to develop an efficient rail network throughout the province, it could open all kinds or doors to future development and may attract a rail competitor to CN.

How about creating a fast commuter rail link between Halifax and Truro, with a stop at the Halifax airport? Building up the rail from the Strait of Canso would also guarantee the success of the Melford Terminal, which is about to be built by private developers in Guysborough County.

With containers coming from Halifax and Melford, and eventually Sydney, perhaps a major rail hub could be created in the Truro area.

Admittedly, everyone has their own ideas and biases, but hopefully the plans that the province unveiled this week are mere suggestions for the Gateway concept.

One thing is certain. There is plenty of time because Ottawa isnít ready for the idea yet.

( rtaylor@herald.ca)

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

Federal funding not a given Premier says proposed gateway could come in í09, but Ottawa may control startup AMY SMITH and TOM PETERS Staff Reporters Fri. Mar 7 - 5:48 AM

A plan to create a new route for trucks and buses using the CN rail cut from south-end Halifax to Fairview could be underway as early as this year, Premier Rodney MacDonald says.

"We want to get moving on it," he said Thursday after cabinet. "We hope to get this announced in the next number of months and begin work as soon as possible, this year or next year."

But if the province is counting on federal dollars to move the project forward, Ottawa may have the last word on when the work actually begins.

Brian Bohunicky of Transport Canada said Wednesday federal money isnít being offered at this point.

"We havenít invited applications for funding under the gateways and border crossings fund," he said. "What we have done is worked very hard and put in a lot time working directly with provinces and the private sector to develop an Atlantic gateway strategy under the MOU (memorandum of understanding) that ministers (Lawrence) Cannon and (Peter) MacKay signed with counterparts in all four Atlantic provinces."

As part of the agreement, signed last October in Halifax, Transport Canada, ACOA and the four provinces agreed to spend two years hashing out a number of issues surrounding the gateway, including potential effects on the regionís transportation system and partnerships with the private sector.

On Thursday, a Transport Canada representative said there is nothing further to add regarding funding and there is no date set as to when funding applications will be accepted.

The federal government has set aside $2.1 billion over seven years for gateways and corridor projects.

"The (agreement) we signed said that there is a lot of work to be done among the governments, and there are some immediate-term actions, particularly with respect to marketing the system and the assets that are in place and have untapped capacity," Mr. Bohunicky said, adding there is a lot of behind-the-scenes work being done on a daily basis at various levels of government on the gateway plan.

The premier said the province has started looking at similar projects elsewhere in the world and how much they cost.

"The government intends to get those trucks out of the downtown area. Itís an issue of getting the product to market. Itís an issue of safety for our citizens. Itís an issue of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and providing more opportunities, whether they live in Timberlea or Halifax-Clayton Park or Bedford or other communities, with respect to transit in the downtown."

Mr. MacDonald said there are different types of designs that would reduce the noise of corridor traffic, but he said the details will "come another day."

"But make no mistake, the government intends to move in this direction."

Mr. MacDonald said the wish list of Atlantic gateway projects he unveiled Wednesday would have to get funding from other levels of government as well as the private sector.

The premier wouldnít say how much the transportation corridor would cost but said the entire package of projects is estimated to be worth more than $300 million.

South-end resident Hugh Pullen called the idea of converting the rail cut "a pie-in-the-sky proposal" and questioned whether CN would want it.

"To run buses and container trucks and the fire department and the ambulance service and the police up and down the railway cut might be a bit difficult, especially if you meet a train coming the other way," he said. "Trains donít stop easily."

Mr. Pullen, who is president of the Peninsula South Community Association, said the noise from the railway, which he describes as a low rumble, isnít all that disruptive.

He said he suspects some of the biggest boosters of the project would be those who want to develop condos on Hollis Street and other parts of downtown that have heavy truck traffic.

Three years ago, a spokesman for CN Rail said there would be costs involved in setting up a truck route on the rail cut.

"At the end of the day, the fact of the matter is, we are not a public utility," Mark Hallman said in 2005. "Our assets arenít free."

Provincial Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said he was pleased to hear the announcements but said it "really seems like a wish list from the premier" with no real timelines for the projects.

"They have been talking about twinning Highway 104 since 1999. Why should Nova Scotians believe it is going to happen now without these timelines put in place?" he said.

"It is important (that) as a province, we focus on our own transportation infrastructure on land to make sure when the private sector begins to invest in our ports, we have the ability to move those goods across land to their destination."

However, the Liberal leader said the premierís announcement lacked substance, especially his plan to use the CN rail cut from the south end of the city as a transportation corridor.

"I donít think the premier should be negotiating in the public. There was an announcement about a corridor, but there isnít even a deal. That is not the way you do business. You negotiate and talk about ideas at the board table."

He said he was surprised to hear the premier talk about the rail cut project and then hear CN saying Wednesday it was willing to talk but there was no agreement.

( asmith@herald.ca)

© 2008 The Halifax Herald Limited

N.S. premier says $300 million in gateway funding to come from several sources Published: Thursday, March 6, 2008 | 1:10 PM ET Canadian Press: THE CANADIAN PRESS

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia Premier Rodney MacDonald says funding to make the province a commercial gateway for goods from Asia will come from through a combination of sources.

The premier has proposed plans for new roads, a refrigerated container terminal and the dredging of Cape Breton's Sydney harbour as part of his gateway strategy.

He says the $300 million bill will be financed through various levels of government, the private sector and, potentially, access to Ottawa's $2.1 billion fund for gateway projects.

But MacDonald isn't ready to give specific details, saying they will come in the months ahead.

He says the one sure thing is that the government intends to rid downtown Halifax of trucks travelling to the Ocean container terminal in the city's south end.

MacDonald says building a new road beside a rail line in the area is a matter of safety and getting products to market faster.

© The Canadian Press, 2008

Residents will give plan to pave rail cut a rough ride By MARILLA STEPHENSON Thu. Mar 6 - 5:38 AM

PREMIER Rodney MacDonald delivered a $300-million, full-breakfast menu on Wednesday with a promise to pursue major infrastructure projects to launch Nova Scotia as North Americaís Atlantic transportation gateway.

The premier gave a morning address to the Halifax Chamber of Commerce with five wish-list projects for the federal government to consider under the $2.1-billion federal gateways and border crossings program over the next decade.

Weíll see if MacDonald has bitten off more than he can chew, though, with his plan to pave a strip of the CN rail cut that runs from Halifaxís south end to Fairview, primarily to aid the struggling Port of Halifax, while ridding clogged downtown streets of overwhelming container truck traffic.

There will surely be a ruckus raised by many of the homeowners who live in high-end homes adjacent to the rail cut. Strident opposition may also be expected from groups that have called for additional recreational use of land in the rail cut.

But the bottom-line argument is sure to come down to the economic reality that the port ó long defined as the primary economic engine of this province ó is faltering due to stiff competition, and needs help to regain its edge.

"There is no doubt that the Port of Halifax is the premier container destination on Canadaís east coast," MacDonald said on Wednesday. "But if it isnít functioning to its potential, the port canít be the engine of the Atlantic Gateway that we know it can be."

In the transportation world, time is money. Containers on trucks that idle in downtown gridlock as part of a one-hour trip out of Halterm to access the 100-series highway system place the port at an immediate disadvantage.

The plan would most likely see a federal-provincial-private partnership developed, with CN as the landowners serving as the private element.

And while weíre on the topic of competition, it is worthwhile asking whether CN has done all it could to assist the port in remaining competitive, and whether a partnership position in the rail cut project might advance that objective.

The road could also be used by emergency vehicles and MetroLink buses, thereby reducing commuter traffic to and from the peninsula.

The other projects cited by MacDonald include the long-awaited Burnside connector highway between the 102 and 107 highways, plus the new Gateway Logistics Park adjacent to Burnside, for the storage or transfer of containers to truck or rail.

The plan also calls for the twinning of the Trans-Canada Highway from Antigonish to Port Hawkesbury, the dredging of Sydney Harbour and construction of a refrigeration unit at Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

Halifax Coun. Sue Uteck admits a plan to pave the rail cut puts her in a difficult spot.

"The port is lagging and this is one of the things they have asked for," she told me Wednesday. "They are responding to the needs of the manufacturing industry."

She says she expects to hear concerns from residents, "but one of the things they canít say is, ĎYou donít know what Iím going through,í because I live right there."

The four Atlantic provinces signed a memorandum of understanding last fall with Ottawa to develop potential gateway projects over the next two years.

It could be some time before consultation, negotiations and paperwork are to the point where construction occurs.

Still, MacDonald has devised a game plan to better position the province to capitalize on evolving transportation opportunities. Securing the competitive position of the Port of Halifax ó despite the controversy his solution will create ó has to be the first step towards getting Nova Scotia back on the road to prosperity.

( mstephenson@herald.ca)

Premier Outlines Potential Gateway Projects

Premier's Office

March 5, 2008 8:31 AM

Premier Rodney MacDonald gave a broad outline today of the potential infrastructure projects that will help transform Nova Scotia into the Atlantic Gateway of North America.

Specifically, the premier highlighted a new multi-transportation corridor to Halifax's Ocean terminal, a new Gateway Logistics Park adjacent to the Burnside Industrial Park, the Burnside Connector, twinning Highway 104 from Antigonish to Port Hawkesbury, a new refrigerated terminal at Halifax Stanfield International Airport, and dredging Sydney Harbour as part of the initial proposed changes.

"We need to transform aspects of our infrastructure in order to meet the economic opportunities that importing and exporting will offer in the years ahead," said Premier MacDonald, at a Nova Scotia Chambers of Commerce breakfast today, March 5, in Halifax. "These projects are tangible examples of how we can reach our full Gateway potential, and also meet our government's immediate priority of building better roads and infrastructure -- another step toward a new Nova Scotia."

The multi-transportation corridor involves paving vehicle lanes beside the rail track in what is now known as the "rail cut" that takes trains to the Ocean terminal in downtown Halifax. This multi-trans corridor would serve a number of functions:

  1. reduce the time it takes for a transport truck to go from Ocean terminal to the highway, thus reduce costs
  2. reduce traffic congestion on downtown city streets
  3. reduce greenhouse-gas emissions from trucks idling at lights
  4. be available for emergency vehicles and commuter-link buses, which would also further reduce emissions.

"The multi-trans corridor is the perfect example of a Gateway project because it helps us move toward our environment, economic and infrastructure targets simultaneously, and creates a business advantage for a company choosing Nova Scotia as its Gateway," said the premier.

Gateway Logistics Park, which would be adjacent to the Burnside Industrial Park, would receive containers that do not go to final destinations immediately. There, they could be broken down into smaller shipments, or combined with others to create larger shipments.

The logistics park would also include a new Logistics Centre of Excellence to allow for skills training and development, and research into transportation and logistics, which would be led by Nova Scotia's community colleges and universities.

The premier also listed twinning Highway 104 from Antigonish to Port Hawkesbury and dredging Sydney Harbour as Gateway projects that will improve the efficiency of transporting goods to or from the Strait or Sydney ports.

The premier thanked the various groups that offered input into the project list, including the Halifax and Nova Scotia chambers of commerce, the ports of Halifax, Sydney and Strait Superport, the Greater Halifax Partners hip, Atlantic Provinces Economic Council (APEC), Atlantic Institute for Market Studies (AIMS), Halifax Regional Municipality and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA).

"Our list of Gateway projects come predominantly from the private sector, and I thank them for their input; we've listened carefully to what these experts have told us," said Premier MacDonald. "But this list is not the complete Gateway picture. What we have today are the initial results of thinking differently to take advantage of the immediate Gateway opportunity.

"I encourage Nova Scotia's business community to do the same -- think differently, and think big to find your place within the Gateway concept."


Atlantic Gateway Website

Extract from p. 100 of Gateway Final Report, refering to Halifax Inland Terminal and Trucking Options Study, by Marinova (see extract below):

"The Inland Terminal would require that a perfectly equitable sharing of all the costs and benefits associated with teh use of an Inland Terminal be negotiated, otherwise the total cost to move freight through the Port Halifax (sic) would increase. The concept is not attractive to Carriers who fear that they would end up with increased costs."

MacDonald wants cargo centre, new roads for 'gateway'

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 5, 2008 | 4:26 PM AT

CBC News

Premier Rodney MacDonald has unveiled details of a plan he hopes will turn Nova Scotia into an international powerhouse for handling cargo.

The Atlantic Gateway plan includes building roads for trucks alongside urban-area railway tracks, a cargo-handling logistics centre, and twinning of sections of the Trans-Canada Highway.

"Certainly it's my hope that by summer we could see something go forward," MacDonald told the Nova Scotia Chambers of Commerce Wednesday.

He said the province should take advantage of its location and deep, ice-free ports to take on more container traffic from around the world.

Federal infrastructure funding would cover some of the costs involved, the premier said, though most of the money would come through private-sector investment.

Specifically, the $300-million plan calls for:

  1. Widening the rail line through Halifax and building roads for trucks next to it.
  2. Building a freight-handling facility in Dartmouth's Burnside Industrial Park.
  3. Creating a new connector road to get in and out of the Burnside site.
  4. Twinning of Highway 104 from Antigonish to Port Hawkesbury.
  5. Dredging Sydney Harbour to allow for larger vessels.

"Yes, they are ambitious projects, but a multi-transportation corridor is going to get product onto the 100-series highways much more quickly," MacDonald said. "It's safer for our residents. It gets large truck traffic off our streets."

The premier said these changes to build up the freight business would revamp the province's economy.

Promise of public consultations

For people living in south-end Halifax, the new roads would change the shape of the neighbourhood.

Coun. Sue Uteck said the municipality looked at the possibility of using the existing railway cut for a trucking lane, but decided the estimated $52-million cost was too much.

The proposal didn't go over well with local residents, she added.

"There was a lot of objection to having additional trucks, as well as trains, in the cut," Uteck told CBC News.

Uteck said she has been assured by the premier's office there will be a round of public consultations when there are more details.

There's also a benefit to the municipality, she said, noting the premier's plan allows emergency vehicles and MetroLink buses to use the trucking corridor.

Port of Sydney pleased

Don Rowe, with the Port of Sydney, welcomed news that the port is included in the premier's transportation plans.

"It's the fact that they consider Sydney Harbour part of the gateway for Atlantic Canada," he said. "It gives it another level of support, and we think that's important."

Rowe estimates dredging the harbour will cost about $40 million. He said it needs to be completed by 2011 if Sydney is to take advantage of new opportunities.

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/nova-scotia/story/2008/03/05/macdonald-gateway.html - includes reader comments

Final Report, Railway Cut Investigation Study, February 2004

Both "trucks in the cut" and "inland freight terminal" options for freight transportation are proven to be feasible in this report.

  • Cover

  • Introduction

  • Truckway Options and Alternatives
  • Extract from this section: 4.3.2 Relationship to the Greenway Proposal

    "The options all use the physical expanse of the rail corridor more extensively. The options would preclude the Greenway trail from passing under the major road bridges, because of the limited horizontal clearance under the bridges. However, it is understood that the Trail is only expected to pass under Quinpool Road. It is also possible that the presence of trucks together with trains in the corridor could be regarded as incompatible with the concept of the Greenway as a "river of greenery" (as described on the Greenway website)".

  • Corridor Operations

  • Preliminary Costs and Conclusions
  • Extract from this section (p. 26) - Relationship to the Halifax Urban Greenway Proposal

    "Most of the concepts discussed in this report require utilization of the second, unused rail track in the corridor. That would preclude the Greenway trail from passing under the bridges which span the rail corridor. (It is understood that the trail is currently foreseen to only pass under Quinpool Road.) However, our review of the corridor indicates that in some sections of the corridor, it would be possible to make these connections via the local street network. Thus the Greenway could be developed as a corridor combining on-street and off-street sections.

    Also, based on our on-site observations, it should be noted that in some locations, it is believed that the steepness of the rock cut could preclude the introduction of the Greenway within the rail corridor property. This would require a detailed investigation, once a decision has been reached with respect to the preferred alternative for managing truck and/or commuter bus traffic."

  • Study Area Map

  • Connections to the South Map

  • Connections to the North Map

Robie Street Connection Alternatives (Appendix B)

Extracts from Report:

Study Comments on Relationship to Greenway

Truck Traffic Volume

Robie Street Connector as First Phase ?

Final Report Halifax Inland Terminal and Trucking Options Study

Presented to Halifax Regional Municipality and Halifax Port Authority

by ©MariNova Consulting Ltd., January 2006

Extracts from Report:

Truckway Study Conclusions

Study Conclusion on Effect on Property Values

Study Comments on Truckway Width

Rail; Cut Environmental Issues

Views of Port Users

The "inland freight terminal" is shown to be the more economically-sound option.

Extract from Executive Summary p. iv:

8.0 The Railway Cut Truckway

The Railway Cut, linking the Bayers Road/Bi-High entrance and the South End Terminals, can be looked upon as an underutilized transportation resource within HRM. However, CN has determined that paving over the tracks is impractical and only oneway traffic could be accommodated.

The use of the railcut as a truckway could remove an estimated 270 one-way truck transits from downtown streets. While the truckway has a beneficial impact on trucking times and costs, road maintenance and greenhouse gas emissions, these benefits are insufficient to justify the $40M required to modify the railcut to accommodate one-way truck traffic.

Cross-Harbour Traffic Needs Assessment

Prepared for: Halifax Dartmouth Bridge Commission

Prepared by: McCormick Rankin Corporation

In association with:

  • OíHalloran Campbell Consultants Limited
  • Buckland Taylor Ltd., and
  • Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc.

March 2008

Woodside Bridge Connections in Halifax

No Room for a Pedestrian Bridge

Both options:

"...on the Halifax side of the crossing, the four general traffic lanes to and from the (bridge or tunnel) (2 lanes in each direction) extend into the existing CN Rail cut to provide a connection to Robie Street."

Tunnel Option:

"...shoulder transit lanes would provide transit priority between Robie Street and the tunnel entrance. Shifting the existing rail lines to the south is required to accommodate this connection. Additional right of way may be required to accommodate the tunnel portal."

Bridge Option:

"No exclusive BRT/HOT (Bus Rapid Transit/High Occupancy Tolling) connection to Robie Street is provided. Shifting the existing rail lines to the south and replacement of the existing Young Avenue and Tower Road bridge structures is required to accommodate this connection."

Both options:

"Robie Street south on Inglis Street will also require widening to a 6 lane urban cross section to accommodate projected traffic volumes."

"As an alternative to an at-grade connection at the south terminus of Robie Street, providing a connection below the current street level through the use of a cut and cover tunnel would reduce the impact on the local road network and neighbourhood. The additional costs associated with the cut and cover connection option have been estimate at $100,000,000."

Copyright © 2011, Halifax Urban Greenway Association