The flyover bicycle bridge planned for the Halifax side of the Macdonald is going to cost nearly double the original estimate.
That’s according to a report to Halifax regional council on Tuesday by project manager Ahmed Allahham.
Council approved the plan for a flyover connecting the Macdonald Bridge bikeway to North Street in 2017. The current design requires cyclists coming to Halifax to ride down to Barrington Street and then back up North Street. Likewise, cyclists going to Dartmouth have to ride down to Barrington Street and then back up the ramp to the bridge.
The flyover would connect directly to North Street with a much more manageable grade. Those headed for Barrington Street anyway would use the existing hairpin turn ramp.
The project also includes changes to the intersection of North and Gottingen streets. It’s a key part of HRM’s planned all ages and abilities (AAA) bike network.
“The 2017 estimate for the changes on the Halifax side (flyover structure plus intersection changes) was approximately $6.5 million,” Allahham wrote.
“A combination of better understanding of the project challenges, increasing project complexity, widened scope, and yearly increases to construction costs (particularly since 2020) have resulted in the most recent construction cost estimates reaching approximately $12.7 million. The project budget will continue to be tracked and has some uncertainty due to rising inflation, market and labour shortages.”
Consultants will take another look at design
The original cost estimate was based on a 30% complete design, which is common in infrastructure projects. There are now concerns that the 30% design was flawed.
“The complexity of the Macdonald Bridge and North Street site has also proven more challenging than initially anticipated. Additional site constraints have been identified throughout the project, including utility conflicts which have raised concerns about the
quality and suitability of the 30% design concepts presented thus far,” Allahham wrote.
“To address 30% design concerns regarding the suitability of the current design, ensure that the project has not overlooked any potentially valuable design options, and provide cost optimization, a Value Engineering pilot exercise will be carried out for the Macdonald Bridge Bikeway project prior to advancement to the next design phase.”
That’s expected to go to tender this month.
Councillor says this is the place to spend
Coun. Sam Austin, who represents Dartmouth Centre, called the bridge connection the “absolute centre” of HRM’s cycling network.
“This is the most important piece, is that route over the bridge,” Austin said. “If we are going to spend those kinds of bucks that’s the spot that we do it.”
Drivers should appreciate that the flyover is really designed for them, Austin said.
“There actually is a very much cheaper solution for bikes. You cut a hole in the fence, put up a traffic light, and then when cars are coming over the bridge, they have to stop and wait when cyclists are passing,” Austin said.
“The flyover ramp really at its heart, it’s kind of a car project because what it’s doing is it’s getting cyclists out of the way of vehicles.”
And while the cost is rising, HRM is still paying a small fraction, just 17%, with the provincial and federal governments paying the remaining 83%. Based on the new estimate of $12,719,107, HRM’s cost is $2,162,248.
It’s a significant sum for a project like this. But for comparison, HRM budgeted about $47 million for repaving streets in 2022-2023.
Austin said he wasn’t clear on whether the other levels of government have committed to funding their respective higher amounts. He plans to ask about that on Tuesday.
The motion in front of council only asks for a budget increase on the consulting fees for WSP Canada. The consultant needs an extra $113,469, taxes in, to accommodate the growing scope of its work.
Bike network behind schedule
Allahham acknowledged in the report that HRM has blown the deadline for implementing its AAA bike network, which should be done now.
“The original target required adding about 45kms of protected bike lanes, multi-use
pathways and local street bikeways over a four-year period. Since that time, about 11kms of facilities have been added,” Allahham wrote.
“The inability to meet the target is due to a number of factors, including: lack of understanding of the full scope of work that would be involved in building these facilities; internal capacity; need for property acquisition; requirement for provincial approval of some design elements (bike crossings and bike signals), lack of clear industry design standards, confirming designs meet accessibility requirements, development encroachments; and interdependencies with other projects (e.g. Cogswell redevelopment).”
One part of the Macdonald Bridge bikeway project did happen more or less on time. The Dartmouth-side bike lanes on Wyse Road, which the Halifax Examiner detailed here, are complete now.