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Main Street North and the Viaduct would be reduced from six vehicle lanes to four as part of the proposed Main Street Active Transportation project. Image: submitted

Saint John pauses Main Street active transportation project

By Brad Perry May 17, 2023 | 12:28 PM

The proposed $2-million Main Street active transportation project in Saint John has hit a roadblock.

The project proposes reducing Main Street North and the Viaduct from six vehicle lanes to four between Chesley Drive and Union Street, creating new space for pedestrians and cyclists.

As part of the changes, the speed limit would also be reduced to 50 kilometres per hour from the current 60 along the corridor.

There are also proposed traffic calming measures for the six ramps along the Viaduct to “reduce or manage the higher speeds” and improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

During Monday’s council meeting, city staff said new requirements have come to light related to the viaduct portion of the work.

“It’s causing us to pause as city staff because all of these are costs and risks that we need to flesh out and make sure we understand,” said Tim O’Reilly, director of public works and transportation.

RELATED: Main Street Active Transportation Plan Unveiled

A rendering showing where the proposed bike lanes and multi-use pathways would be, along with the existing bike lane. Image: submitted

While Main Street North is under the authority of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, the viaduct is managed by the New Brunswick Highway Corporation and its third-party operating partner, Gateway Operations.

O’Reilly said the city only learned in the last couple of months that it would need a new highway usage permit for the viaduct portion.

In addition, Gateway Operations has first-right-of-refusal to install the active transportation infrastructure along the viaduct at the city’s cost.

“We were aligned all the way along, obviously, to have one contractor in place for the entire project,” said O’Reilly.

The city would also be on the hook for future costs incurred by Gateway due to the installed infrastructure and would need to have additional liability coverage.

Council voted to send a letter to the transportation minister asking him to forego the added requirements for this project.

Michael Hugenholtz, commissioner of public works and transportation, acknowledged the frustration that council is feeling.

“There is frustration that this came up at the 11th hour after working with both DTI and Public Safety for almost a year and a half on this project,” said Hugenholtz, calling the added requirements a “considerable wrinkle.”

Despite the delay, city staff said they are optimistic an agreement can be reached and the project can still be done by the end of 2024.


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