The province wants to take another look at adding a trucking route to the rail corridor in peninsular Halifax, Economic Development Minister Angus MacIsaac said Thursday.
Nova Scotia is calling for proposals from firms interested in studying how worthwhile it would be to build a road alongside the 6.8-kilometre stretch of CN rail tracks that snake through the city from the Halterm container port.
“We want to have the most up-to-date and comprehensive information to help us make the right decisions,” Mr. MacIsaac said.
Mr. MacIsaac said adding that the road would hopefully improve the transportation of goods to and from the port and make Halifax more competitive for container ship business. It could also reduce heavy truck traffic in downtown Halifax and provide opportunities for public transportation and recreation.
“We want to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the competitiveness of our ports,” Mr. MacIsaac said.
Mr. MacIsaac said the province is confident Ottawa will contribute funding for the project, although there’s no such promise yet.
Transport Canada, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the four provinces agreed last October in Halifax to spend two years hashing out a number of issues for developing an Atlantic Gateway, including potential effects on the region’s transportation system and partnerships with the private sector.
The federal government has set aside $2.1 billion over seven years for gateways and corridor projects.
“Our companies rely on this transportation network to get their goods to market,” Mr. MacIsaac said.
“We know that by strengthening the position of the gateway our whole province and region stand to benefit in this competitive and evolving marketplace.”
But business at the container terminal has dropped significantly this year.
“We need to ensure that the port of Halifax is very efficient,” Mr. MacIsaac said. “We need to do everything we can to allow it to make that claim.”
NDP Leader Darrell Dexter questioned whether the cost of the project, which has been estimated at about $80 million, would be the best way to bolster business at the port.
“There’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing here,” he said.
“Do you want the traffic first or do you want the infrastructure first to carry that traffic?”
Coun. Sue Uteck (Northwest Arm-South End) said there have been several studies already, including one in 2007 which concluded it wasn’t very feasible.
“You’re raising the ire of a lot of the members of the public.”
She said nothing will be possible unless the company is prepared to co-operate on the project because it owns the land, pointing out CN has reduced daily service from two trains to one.
“Nobody wants to talk about the elephant in the room, which is CN,” she said.
“That has to be addressed before any study.”
The deadline for submissions is Nov. 14 and the feasibility study itself is expected to be completed in January.
The study is expected to cost several hundred thousand dollars and examine several factors, including the project’s total cost, possible economic benefits and environmental impacts.