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Halifax suffering from gridlock following accidents


Getting around Halifax takes good planning and, often, a bit of luck. An accident or vehicle breakdown on any of the major routes can cause traffic chaos.

“We are very vulnerable to any kind of incidents that are creating major traffic issues, particularly gridlock,” says Ashan Habib, a traffic planning professor at Dalhousie University.

The latest example happened mid-afternoon Thursday when a truck carrying a load of rocks drove off an overpass in Lower Sackville, crashing onto Highway 102 below. The accident closed both inbound lanes and one outbound lane.

“The city just came to a halt for hours and that’s not productive, it’s not beneficial,” says Pam Lovelace, councillor for Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets.

Despite being a member of the Joint Regional Transportation Agency, Lovelace says the city's hands are tied when it comes to changes to certain infrastructure in the municipality.

“We have a joint jurisdiction between the provincial government. They manage the highways and half of the roads in the municipality are provincial and so for the municipality we have very limited jurisdiction,” Lovelace says.

Bedford-Wentworth Councillor Tim Outhit says his constituents are growing frustrated by the increasing congestion during their commute.

“What I’m hearing is better transit, can we clear up these incidents faster be it on the bridge or on the road and then let’s build some more ways in and out of our community so we have some alternatives,” he says.

“I still live for the day that we’re big enough to have rapid transit and light rail. We’re at that stage where we’re growing, there’s going to be growing pains, but with that growth in population, the tax base will also grow and we will be able to afford more options whether it be road, transit, rail, etc.”

The lack of transportation infrastructure will also be a concern if a major evacuation is needed.

“I think there is a consensus that we are on the hurricane path, we are susceptible to wildfire, so there are all indications that we need some sort of an evacuation transport plan in place,” professor Habib says. “We have lots of bottlenecks and we have narrow roads so we are vulnerable to incidents like extreme events.”

A recent Dalhousie University study discovered it would take 20-to-24 hours to get everyone off the Halifax Peninsula, assuming there are no incidents on the roads or bridges.

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