Port Hawkesbury’s much-debated Destination Reeves Street project will go ahead, albeit with some design changes.
Councillors unanimously voted at a meeting last week against a motion to remove the so-called road diet portion of the proposal — which involves reducing a kilometre of the four-lane road to three lanes, including a left-turning lane — from the project.
The vote came after council heard at the meeting from presenters including representatives of Nova Scotia Community College, the Regional Occupational Centre and residents, as well as Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal engineers.
Last month, newly elected councillor Blaine MacQuarrie brought forward at his first meeting a notice of motion to amend the proposal submitted to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal removing the so-called road diet portion, with the remaining components continuing to move forward.
Council had sought more information from its funding partners — ACOA and the transportation department — over concerns that removing the road diet would place other components of the project, which includes a façade program, in jeopardy.
Of the $5-million project, the road diet portion is $1.3 million.
“Safety is my main priority,” MacQuarrie said at last week’s meeting. “Money alone should not be what motivates this decision.”
The biggest change to the design that the transportation department approved within the last month is the elimination of the proposed bicycle lane for the road diet portion of the street, the one-kilometre lane stretched from the intersection at Pitt Street to Trunk 4A.
Instead, there will be paved shoulders with signs indicating to motorists they cannot drive or park on them. There will also be upgraded intersections including improved traffic lights at the Pitt and Reynolds street intersections. The transportation department will also improve the crosswalks at the intersections of Reeves and MacSween Street and Reeves and Old Sydney Road. The town has also applied to the transportation department to consider adding another crosswalk near Canadian Tire. There will also be dedicated turn lanes at the Pitt Street intersection.
“These are not small changes,” MacQuarrie said. “Over the past month, TIR has made several important improvements to the project in order to address safety concerns.”
Transportation department engineer Dwayne Cross noted that the street’s new design will involve access management — reducing access points to many businesses located along the busy street, reducing potential collision points.
“It just cleans up how you get in and out of the business,” he said.
MacQuarrie noted the town had been told that it would be a “two to three year” pilot period for the road diet. However, the transportation department has now agreed to a one-year pilot. Cross explained that there will likely be a three-month adjustment period and a 12-month monitored trial period.
If the decision is made to reject the road diet, Reeves Street will revert to its current design and Port Hawkesbury will retain the upgraded intersections and crosswalk and traffic lights.
ACOA has also indicated it will honour its funding commitments to the other components of the project if the road diet is ultimately reversed, MacQuarrie said.
He noted he believes the changes will make the street safer and indicated he wanted to withdraw his motion. Council did vote on the motion to remove the road diet, and unanimously rejected that suggestion.
Deputy Mayor Mark McIver then put forward a motion to go ahead with the Destination Reeves Street project in its entirety, as no prior similar motion by council had been found to be on the books. That motion also received unanimous support.
Previously, Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton stressed the importance of the traffic component of the project in fulfilling Destination Reeves Street’s vision as “a complete street project.”
In December, ACOA confirmed to the Cape Breton Post that the federal government contribution to the project is a $1,606,420. The total project cost is $5,385,040.
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