A city scene on a sunny day. In the foreground there are two green and white bollards on the left. In the centre there's a bike symbol painted on the street with green lines in front of it. There are buildings in the background and a car waits at a red light.
The bike lane on Upper Water Street in downtown Halifax in June 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

The municipality is looking for public feedback on a plan to redesign Water Street in downtown Halifax, with two options up for debate.

The one-way street runs north from Terminal Road to Historic Properties, starting as Lower Water Street and becoming Upper Water Street at the intersection with George Street. According to HRM, more than 5,000 vehicles and pedestrians use the street daily.

It’s a typical congestion point in the city, with transport trucks using the street to leave the terminal, and the pedestrian infrastructure is inconsistent, with some narrow choke points, uneven brick paving, and one spot where the sidewalk just ends.

With a video posted on Tuesday, the municipality outlined two design concepts for the street.

No matter which design option is chosen, there will be an improvement for cyclists.

A bike lane was added to the street as a pilot project in late 2020, and as part of the new redesign, it will be staying. The current lane is protected using flexible green bollards, but those haven’t stopped delivery vehicles from parking in cyclists’ right-of-way. The new redesign will fully separate the bike lane from traffic, raising it to sidewalk height, matching the lane on one section of the street, in front of Queen’s Marque.

A cyclist walks their bike on the bike lane on Lower Water Street in Halifax in June 2021. Photo: Zane Woodford

Pedestrians will also see some added space either way, with added sidewalk width at the choke points in the street — at Prince Street and at Historic Properties.

But the rest of the street is dependent on which option is chosen.

The first is described as “transit-focused.” That option would add a bus lane during rush hour on the east side of the street. During off-peak hours, there’d be parking and loading on that side of the street. The west-side lane would remain open for traffic at all times.

The second option is pedestrian-focused. It adds sidewalk width on the east side of the street, but the west side is the same, 2.8 metres of sidewalk and 1.2 metres of buffer space.

The material difference between the two options is 20 centimetres of buffer space between traffic and the bike lane, 80 centimetres of buffer space between the bike lane and the sidewalk, and 30 centimetres of sidewalk width.

That extra buffer space would accommodate more benches or public art.

The pedestrian-focused design is also parking and loading-focused. That option maintains parking and loading on one side of the street all day, where the transit option removes it during peak times. The mixed traffic lane is also 20 centimetres wider in that design.

There’s a survey open for residents to weigh in on the options at shapeyourcityhalifax.ca/Water-Street-Corridor. Once public feedback is complete, planners hope to present a recommendation to council this spring.

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Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. Either option look very good. Water Street is terrible overall and some parts I would call a disaster for traffic and pedestrians.