With no specific projects in mind for the municipality, MP Andy Fillmore announced a new $400-million federal active transportation fund in Halifax on Friday.
The funding is part of $14.9 billion in public transit infrastructure money that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last month. The money announced on Friday will be handed out to municipalities over five years for active transportation projects including bike lanes, trails, pedestrian bridges, and “anything at all that removes barriers to accessible movement of people by their own power.”
“It’s really quite broad at this point, and we’re looking for a lot of creativity and imagination from applicants,” Fillmore told reporters.
Asked whether there’s anything new for Halifax in this announcement, Fillmore said, “There will be.”
“It’s too soon to say,” he said. “In the usual rhythm of federal programs, we win the battle to get the money from department of finance and treasury board, and that’s what we’re announcing today. With that in hand, we now go forward and design the program that will deliver the funding.”
Fillmore said he’s also leading public engagement for a new active transportation strategy, which was supposed to start a year ago but was delayed due to COVID-19. That engagement will shape the criteria for the new funding.
“It will land in Halifax, as in other communities across the country, later this year when applications for the program open,” Fillmore said.
Mayor Mike Savage said the money would help Halifax in its quest to become a cycling city.
“We know that we’ve got a long way to go,” Savage said.
The federal government announced $12.5 million in 2019 to help Halifax build the full grid of bike lanes imagined in the Integrated Mobility Plan in three years. The municipality is still working on that, with plans to spend a total of $5.3 million in 2021-2022. That work includes a design for the new Macdonald Bridge bike ramp, a new bike lane on Wyse Road, and a bikeway on Dahlia Street.
For comparison, Halifax plans to spend $38 million on paving roads this year.
Asked what HRM could do with the new active transportation funding, Savage didn’t have any specific ideas.
“We have a lot of projects we think we can accelerate to bring into this program,” Savage said.
“But I would like to think some of this money could come to Halifax for things I haven’t even imagined yet.”
Simone Mutabazi, Community Cycling Activation Officer with the Ecology Action Centre, told reporters the funding could get more people on bikes by connecting the infrastructure HRM already has.
“Some of the projects could go to just expanding and connecting the existing bike lanes, so that you can have more complete infrastructure that connects people to main streets and community hubs,” Mutabazi said.
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