PORT HAWKESBURY: Reeves Street has been given the municipal stamp of approval for the road re-design, transitioning from four lanes to three and the Destination Reeves Street project has been given its final green light.
Town councillors in Port Hawkesbury unanimously defeated a motion to remove the road re-design component of the project during their regular council meeting February 5 – which featured a standing-room only crowd in the Shannon Studio to find out the project’s fate.
Council then unanimously passed a motion in support of the project which had some eleventh-hour changes, including the removal of the bike lane component of the pilot, improvements to the MacSween intersection and new crosswalk infrastructure at MacSween Street and Old Sydney Road.
Council received gallery presentations from project stakeholders representing NSCC Strait Area Campus students, high school students, local residents, special needs citizens and those with mobility issues. They received and reviewed 170 support letters from businesses and citizens representing 275 individuals in full support of the project, including the road re-design.
During his supplementary presentation, Dwayne Cross, a senior engineer with the province’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (DTIR) advised that the on-road bike lanes were taken out of the newly motioned design, opting to go with a paved shoulder, but he noted they could potentially be installed in the future.
Following the meeting, Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said she couldn’t be happier all five officials voted the way they did – in support of the road re-design component and the whole project moving forward.
After a long month of meetings and discussions with their funding partner Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), as well as DTIR senior engineers and minister Lloyd Hines – through all the work, tweaking, amendments and compromise – Port Hawkesbury finally has a Destination Reeves Street project that is officially approved by council.
“I am so hopeful for the future of our town and I feel like Destination Reeves Street will position us for growth, for new investment, it will gives us a safer, more walk-able, more vibrant community and I’m just excited to seeing this project roll-out finally after years and years and years of planning,” she said. “I think at the end of the day, we all rolled up our sleeves, we all had a willingness to have an open mind, there were a lot of conversations and a lot of compromise. Everybody stepped up to the plate to make this project happen.”
After conversations over the past month, Chisholm-Beaton believes all councillors really felt comfortable going forward with the plan.
Councillor Blaine MacQuarrie, who introduced the original motion to remove the road re-design in January’s council meeting after being sworn-in following a special election, made his position on the road re-design clear – safety was his main priority.
“My concerns regarding the Destination Reeves Street road diet have centered around mixing heavy industrial traffic with the regular personal and commercial traffic along Reeves Street,” MacQuarrie told council. “One of the main obstacles that I saw to the project was the bicycle lanes, as it would reduce the space available along the street.”
As a result of voicing his concerns, MacQuarrie said ACOA and DTIR made major changes to the road diet design that was presented to council in January.
The most significant change in the new design he said was the removal of the bicycle lanes on both sides of Reeves Street, creating an additional two meters of extra space on either side of the road. To address the congestion issue, DTIR has committed to install new traffic lights at the Pitt and Reynolds intersections, as well as dedicated left-turn lanes, and will introduce right-turn lanes from Pitt Street to Reeves Street at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre and from Reeves Street to Pitt Street at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church.
“All of these commitments will work to make the proposed road diet more suitable for Reeves Street. These are not small changes – over the past month, TIR has made several important improvements to the project in order to address my safety concerns,” MacQuarrie said. “The project as it was presented in January did not accomplish this. However, due to the number of significant changes that council, TIR, ACOA and town staff have made to the project over the past month since I introduced this motion, I am now in a position where I feel confident that the project will lead to a safe and accessible Reeves Street.”
Chisholm-Beaton said there will be a three-month adjustment period, followed by a 12-month monitoring period to cycle through the four seasons to understand how the road will work.
The town will be looking at issuing tenders for subsequent phases of the project. The mayor said the construction of the active transportation lane is scheduled to be started this spring, while the changes to Reeves Street could start as early as August, with the façade upgrades being carried out over the next two years.