Permanent bike lanes, wider sidewalks, narrower lanes, and trees are proposed for the downtown portion of Brunswick Street in a plan headed to council.

Council’s Transportation Standing Committee heard a presentation on Thursday from landscape architect Katherine Peck on the “Brunswick Street Complete Streets Active Transportation Connection” project.

The project covers Brunswick Street from Cogswell Street to Spring Garden Road, and Gottingen Street from Rainnie Drive to Brunswick Street.

A rendering shows two lanes of vehicular traffic, a bike lane, trees, a sidewalk, and a mural on a retaining wall, with people throughout the space.
A rendering of the proposed changes to Brunswick Street, looking south. Credit: HRM

There are already temporary, also known as “tactical,” bike lanes in much of the area. But Peck and her coworkers are proposing a full redesign.

They want to install bi-directional protected bike lanes along the Citadel Hill side of Gottingen and Brunswick streets. The project would also mean a wider sidewalk, and the addition of trees and street lights. There would be changes to turn lanes and the elimination of on-street parking on one or both sides of Brunswick Street, depending on the section.

Power and communication lines are already buried on Brunswick Street between Gottingen Street and Sackville Street. Staff want to bury them on Gottingen Street between Rainnie Drive and Brunswick Street, and on the section of Brunswick Street from Sackville Street to Spring Garden Road.

A rendering shows a cross section of a roadway, with a sidewalk, landscape buffer, bikeway, buffer for street lights, two lanes of traffic, parking and loading, and another sidewalk.
A cross section shows the plan for Brunswick Street between Gottingen Street and Sackville Street. Credit: HRM

HRM would narrow vehicular lanes throughout.

The plan is to start with an interim project in 2024. That project would see the Brunswick and Sackville streets intersection redesigned. HRM would also extend the temporary bike lane to Doyle Street. The estimated cost of those changes is $1.55 million.

At that Sackville Street intersection, staff plan to remove the right-turning slip lane to create more space for pedestrians.

An overhead view shows an intersection, with technical drawings imposed over satellite imagery.
The proposed design for the intersection of Brunswick and Sackville streets. Credit: HRM

“I think the pedestrian benefits actually are huge here on this, as much as the cycling benefits, and getting rid of that slip lane is excellent,” said Coun. Waye Mason, chair of the committee.

The municipality will tackle the full project after the Cogswell Interchange redevelopment is done, Peck said, likely in 2027-2028.

The current cost estimate for the entire project is $10 million. Peck’s report notes there’s a risk of further cost escalation.

Councillors recommend in favour of ‘exciting’ plan

“As someone who cycles and walks through here several times a week, this is exciting,” said Coun. Shawn Cleary.

Cleary said he’s not sure how the bidirectional bike lane will work until the entire planned cycling network is complete.

“I wish it was happening faster, but I can see the vision, how it’s going to come together. I just won’t know how it’s going to function until I’m actually riding in it,” Cleary said.

Coun. Pam Lovelace said she’s happy about burying power lines whenever possible, but raised concerns about traffic at the intersection of Gottingen, Brunswick, and Duke streets after big events like Mooseheads games.

“I’m not sure that this is going to be much of a solution for that. In fact, I’m looking at this thinking this might actually cause more problems and more backups,” Lovelace said.

Peck said the traffic movements for that intersection aren’t changing, but there is more space for pedestrians.

Moving people after Moose games

“People aren’t parking at [the former Metro] Centre because there is no parking at [the former Metro] Centre. They’re parking in the areas around,” Peck said.

“Right now what happens is pedestrians spill out into the street and they’re just sort of moving everywhere. So through the use of those bump outs and those larger curb extensions we’re creating, we’re hoping that that will help … because it will provide more space for pedestrians who are waiting and moving through the area.”

Mason acknowledged one business in the area, Insight Optometry, expressed concerns about the loss of parking.

“I still think the net benefit of this is is worth looking at moving forward,” Mason said. “And I also note that the building they’re in has a surface parking lot in front of it, so I think that can be managed there.”

In total, HRM would remove 59 parking spaces from Brunswick Street, meaning an estimated loss of $200,000 in annual parking revenue. Peck said they’re also looking at add some spaces on side streets to reduce the net loss in parking.

The committee voted unanimously in favour of the motion to recommend council move ahead with the project.

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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