Councillors tentatively approved $175.2 million in capital spending for 2021-2022 on Wednesday, and voted to consider an extra $1 million for traffic calming at the end of their budget process.
Halifax regional council’s budget committee held its weekly virtual meeting on Wednesday to discuss the proposed budget for roads, buildings, projects, vehicles and equipment in the year ahead.
Among the biggest items in that capital budget: $29.35 million for “street recapitalization” (paving), $24.8 million for new buses and other transit infrastructure, $12 million for new software for the accounting, human resources and procurement departments, and $7.9 million for improvements to parks, playgrounds and fields.
Also included is about $1 million for the city’s traffic calming program — the installation of speed humps, islands and other so-called traffic calming measures on city streets with speeding issues.
Municipal transportation and public works director Brad Anguish told councillors the municipality has significantly increased the number of those projects it’s completed in recent years, from three in 2017 to 30 in 2020. Anguish said the department plans to calm traffic on 52 streets in 2021.
There are more than 200 streets approved for traffic calming on the ranked list posted online, and Anguish said thousands of streets in the municipality would qualify.
Councillors in several districts argued the municipality should be working faster to slow traffic.
“Traffic calming is the biggest issue we’re hearing about,” Coun. Pam Lovelace, representing the Hammonds Plains-St. Margaret’s district, said.
Coun. Shawn Cleary proposed on Wednesday to double the budget for traffic calming, moving to add $1 million to councillors’ budget adjustment list for street calming. The motion passed unanimously. That means council will receive a briefing note and consider adding the item to the budget near the end of its budget process, tentatively scheduled for April 20.
But even if council approves the extra cash later, that won’t necessarily translate to double the number of street calmed.
“It’s really late in the game to do it when the street budget is pretty much cooked,” Anguish said in response to a question about Cleary’s motion.
“We’ll come back with the parameters of what we think we can pull off this year, however I would recommend that we go further in this note … to help council understand what we would need to put it on hyperdrive and really step up the production level for a few years.”
Last year, council added $150,000 to the budget through the budget adjustment list process for traffic calming in 10 school zones across the municipality. There’s another $150,000 in the budget for 2021-2022 for school zones, and Anguish said doing more of those may be the easiest way to calm more streets this summer.
The total budget adjustment list, by the Examiner’s count, stands at just over $2 million.
Other big ticket items in the capital budget include:
- $4.5 million for the replacement of the Mackintosh Depot
- $4.1 million for a park and ride transit facility in West Bedford
- $3.9 million to widen roads and build roundabouts in West Bedford
- $3.85 million for new Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency vehicles
- $3.68 million for street maintenance
- $3.3 million for new sidewalks, multi‐use pathways, pedestrian bridges and bike lanes
- $3 million to buy land for projects related to the Integrated Mobility Plan
- $3 million to shore up city-owned wharves
- $2.9 million for the new Mill Cove Ferry, as proposed in the Rapid Transit Strategy
- $2.7 million for Bayers Road bus lanes
The final vote on the 2021-2022 operating and capital budgets is scheduled for May 4.