Halifax approves plans to build sidewalks for 17 rural communities in coming years
The Halifax municipality has approved a plan for making a number of rural communities safer for pedestrians, but it could take decades before all the work is carried out.
Regional council added a list of 17 rural communities to the city's active transportation priorities plan on Tuesday, as well as proposed corridors connecting the areas. Active transport means getting around on foot or bicycle so communities will eventually see new sidewalks, paved shoulders on roads or multi-use pathways.
"It's a long time coming for this report to be coming forward," said Coun. David Hendsbee of Preston-Chezzetcook-Eastern Shore.
The 17 areas are scattered across the greater Halifax region, and include:
A staff report said the sites were chosen based on population density, destinations in the area, community input and traffic data.
Megan Backos, active transportation planner for Halifax, told council that staff will talk to each community to find out what they want and where it should go. She said a sidewalk could mean anything from a traditional design made from concrete, to cheaper asphalt, or creating a larger pathway for both pedestrians and cyclists.
Coun. Becky Kent of Dartmouth South-Eastern passage said that communication will be vital.
"It's really important that we have our chance to go out to them and acknowledge those who have felt disenfranchised, those who have felt left out of the conversation," Kent said.
Staff said five of the 17 communities will be chosen as priorities for sidewalks over the next 10 years. Only East Preston has been selected so far because funds for its greenway are already included in this year's budget.
Given that pace, Coun. Patty Cuttell said it might take 50 years for all of the rural communities to see work done.
"It's probably a bit overdue but here we are, and we're starting, so let's keep moving forward," Cuttell said.
Council also created a new mechanism to help pay for the improvements: communities getting the sidewalks will see their property taxes go up. The year after anything is built, the tax rate in those communities would rise to match the urban rate of $0.62 cents per $100 of assessed property value.
Councillors urged staff to ensure they adapt new sidewalk projects to each community, with an eye to how they fit into long-term goals for transit, tourism and economic development.
"If it's just going and looking for … tax to pay for a sidewalk to nowhere, I don't think we're going to get a lot of support," Cuttell said. "But if we're really hearing what the desires of the community are in terms of their future vision, then I think that's a lot more palatable."
Province would have to be involved
The report said the first five projects could cost between $4 million to $19 million dollars for the city. Staff said they will be working with the provincial traffic authorities to get approval on any projects since most sidewalks will be installed on provincially owned roads.
Connecting corridors, or "spines" as the report calls them, would be added as the opportunity arises when the province makes other improvements in the area.
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