PORT HAWKESBURY: Town council has a major decision on its hands.
Council can move forward with the Destination Reeves Street project or proceed with a newly-elected councillor’s motion to remove the road re-design out of the project altogether, a move which comes with consequences.
During January’s regular meeting, town council decided to turn to its funding partners, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, to see if the motion introduced by Blaine MacQuarrie to remove the re-design was a plausible option.
Terry Doyle, the town’s Chief Administrative Officer told The Reporter last Friday that option is not possible.
“We met with ACOA and they have confirmed certainly the impact of removing the road diet,” he said. “People sort of use this all or nothing concept but it’s not really that, the road diet is really a core component of the project. It’s one of the core components that make it a viable project.”
The highly-controversial part of the plan is the proposed one-kilometre lane reconfiguration from the intersection at Pitt Street to Trunk 4A. Doyle said the results of creating the turning lane in the east/west bound lanes is the addition of a buffer between the lanes and sidewalks and the reduced speed that naturally happens, but he said that core component can no longer happen if the road re-design is taken out.
“So as a result of that, if council decides not to move forward on the road reconfiguration, we’ll not be able to meet the terms specifically in the ACOA contract,” he advised. “At that point we’d have to notify stakeholders that work will stop immediately, we’d have to do the same with our consultants and look at liabilities as a result of that.”
Doyle said Reeves Street is designed for 100 km/h but if they expect people to travel the posted 50 km/h, from a traffic engineer’s perspective, the road has to be redesigned accordingly. He said the intent behind the project is to convert a highway to an urban street.
“Once you do that and once you make traffic predictable – then it’s safer to cross the road, it’s safer to walk and bike along the road.”
If council decides to move forward with MacQuarrie’s motion, Doyle said the federal funding provided by ACOA to the Town of Port Hawkesbury in the amount of $1,606,420 through its Innovative Communities Fund will be in jeopardy.
“Certainly council can decide to do that, but the project would stop. It would be over at that point in time,” Doyle said. “Now they could look at components in another way but the Destination Reeves Street project as we know it would have to cease, we’d have to look at the liabilities around doing that. At that point in time, we wouldn’t be able to abide by the terms of our contract and wouldn’t be able to push forward.”
Doyle said staff takes the direction of council, they’ll do the very best they can to support any decision, and they will try to make the best of any situation.
In a recent letter to Kevin MacEachern, chair of Destination Reeves Street committee, Doyle wrote that any new proposal would likely increase the town’s contribution.
“The project could not continue in its present form, without putting the town at risk of not complying with the cope laid out in the contract,” Doyle wrote.
Port Hawkesbury Mayor, Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said she hopes the project will continue.
“Whether our councillors love or hate the road diet, it is a pilot and we get to see if it will work, and if it doesn’t, the lines will be repainted,” she said. “At the end of the day, it is my hope that our $5 million dollar Reeves Street project will proceed.”
Chisholm-Beaton highlighted the importance of this project has to NSCC students, citizens in Embree’s Island, all the users of Reeves Street including drivers and pedestrians, the local businesses via the façade program, the town’s image thorugh the main street revitalization, and the ability to attract and retain business and industry.
“I hope that after February 5, our citizens will still have this very important project and opportunity.”