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Port of Halifax infrastructure project will improve downtown experience, two experts say

Federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau announced a $47.5 million investment Sunday
A train approaches the Halterm International Container Terminal in Halifax's south end. (Meghan Groff/

Two newly announced infrastructure projects will greatly improve the downtown experience, according to the executive director of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission.

Paul MacKinnon said truck traffic has become a big issue in recent years with a growing number of residents, businesses and tourists on the peninsula.

"If you've ever eaten downtown on a patio on Lower Water Street when those trucks are going by, it's a disruptive experience," he explained. "They're loud and they're noisy."

Federal Transportation Minister Marc Garneau announced a $47.5 million investment in the Port of Halifax on Sunday.

The funds are earmarked to improve the rail cut so it can be used to move containers from the South End Container Terminal to the Fairview Cove Container Terminal. This will allow trucks to load and unload at the north end of the peninsula, meaning many of the large vehicles will no longer need to navigate through the streets of downtown Halifax.

The Windsor Street Exchange will also be reconfigured as part of the project, including realigning the Bedford Highway and upgrading Lady Hammond Road.

Once finished, it's expected container truck traffic through the city's core will be reduced by 75 per cent.

"We're trying to promote downtown as a great tourist destination. Halifax Waterfront is actually now the number one visited tourist destination in Atlantic Canada. That's right where the trucks were driving through on Lower Water Street," MacKinnon said.

"We're trying promote downtown as a place for people to come and live," he added. "You expect some noise in an urban lifestyle, but just the sheer size, noise and volume of the trucks, it's an incompatible use for downtown."

The project could also have improve conditions for those with sensory sensitivities.

David Paterson is the regional autism coordinator with Ready, Willing, and Able, an initiative serving the neurodiverse community.

He said neurodiversity means everybody's brain processes information in a different way, and some people may find sensory inputs such as sounds, lights and scents overwhelming.

Paterson said invisible disabilities are not always considered in discussions about accessibility, but he thinks reducing truck traffic will go a long way to making the downtown area a more inviting environment.

"The smells that are coming from trucks, the vibrations as trucks are coming down Hollis Street, that can be uncomfortable for a lot of people, not just people who are neurodiverse," Paterson explained. "But I think for a lot of people who are overwhelmed by the sensory information -- maybe people who are autistic or families with autistic children -- that can be really uncomfortable."

"I think this move not only will increase the comfort of downtown, but also make it a more accessible place for everybody, and really start to push the conversation towards how we make downtown in Halifax built for people, not necessarily trucks and cars."

The project is still in the planning stage. Garneau said shovels won't hit the dirt until 2020, and the projected completion date is still to be determined.


Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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