Two more months of traffic pain until CN finishes rail bridge replacement

The replacement of the CN Rail bridge on Quinpool Road is at the halfway mark. For commuters, it means about two more months of disruption.

The closure of Quinpool Road from the Armdale Roundabout to Connaught Avenue has put tremendous pressure on Chebucto Road and shortened the tempers of those affected.

But District 9 Coun. Shawn Cleary says work is going well and should be done by mid-August.

“They’re on schedule,” he said. “The first couple of weeks was Halifax Water. So with the bridge, the reinforcement of the arch, the Halifax Water pipes that used to be inside the bridge can no longer be inside the bridge, there’s not enough room.”

A separate bridge to carry the water pipes over the railway cut was built and CN was able to begin its work, he said.

“Then CN came in and they started excavating because they had to go right down to the masonry arch. They had to reinforce and waterproof the arch and now … the concrete is curing and so they’ll be hopefully at a point soon where they can start rebuilding it back up,” Cleary said.

He said the target date for completion is mid-August and and he’s been notified that work is on schedule.

Rainy weather has helped, not hindered, the project.

District 9 Coun. Shawn Cleary says the CN Rail project is on schedule and should be completed by mid-August. (Haydn Watters/CBC)

“Concrete, as long as it’s hard, doesn’t mind the rain. Actually, sunshine is a bad thing for concrete when it’s curing, you don’t want it to cure too quickly. Things are progressing. I see lots of equipment, lots of workers on site.”

It’s not the first time the Halifax West Armdale councillor and his constituents had to cope with closed roads and upheaval due to a massive construction project.

In 2017, a stretch of the St. Margarets Bay Road between Douglas Drive and Quarry Road was closed to through traffic from mid-July to the end of November.

Even though traffic on Quinpool past Connaught is restricted to local residents, drivers are using side streets to weave their way to Chebucto in order to exit the peninsula, Cleary said. As a result, there are complaints from residents.

Some landscaping work is taking place at Flinn Park, next to the CN Rail bridge on Quinpool Road, where a number of trees and shrubs were removed in preparation for the construction project. (Louise Renault/CBC)

“We’ve had police every day in here patrolling, actually both on the north side and the south side of Quinpool, and they’ve had days where they’ve given out 15 to 20 tickets because people are rolling through stop signs,” Cleary said.

“People are doing dangerous things like coming up outside of their lane to try and make a turn ahead of the rest of the traffic. And so the police have been very active.”

The streets most affected — MacDonald, Quinn and Churchill — are coping with sharply increased amounts of traffic.

“There are [13,500] vehicles coming up Quinpool every morning, and Armview used to see over 2,000 go down there. And so we know the traffic has increased through MacDonald and Quinn and Churchill, certainly not to that extent.”

Some changes have been made on those streets. A yield sign on Churchill has been changed to a stop sign and Blink Bonnie Terrance has been closed off where the street meets MacDonald.

Speed bumps added

Four speed bumps have been added to MacDonald. But that was due to a traffic study last year that found about 85 per cent of drivers were going too fast on the road that connects Quinpool and Chebucto.

“But when it’s gridlock, it’s not the speed that is the issue. It is the people’s aggressive driving tendencies. Thankfully, [there’s been] no major incidents, a lot of close calls and those kind of things. The police, as I said, have given a lot of tickets for dumb driving behaviour.”

Halifax police said there has not been a spike in the number of collisions since the construction work began. 

“The number of motor-vehicle collisions in the Armdale Roundabout, Chebucto Road and Connaught for April-May 2018 was zero and for April-May 2019 was one,” Const. John MacLeod said in an email Thursday.

The length of time for this particular project has rankled Halifax residents. One local structural engineer said CN could have used a prefabricated structure to replace, rather than repair, the bridge. That could have cut construction time to one month from more than four.

CN in control of project

Cleary said the municipality had no control over the means and length of the work.

“The city has no authority to dictate how CN rebuilds their bridge. It’s their bridge, their land. But the major concern, of course, for CN and the entire city and region is the economic impact that the rail has,” he said.

“And so any project that would see them come in with equipment, tear it down and rebuild it say over a week or even several weeks would necessitate the closure of the rail. Now that means that the port would have to close because they can’t move product and the port is almost $2 billion in annual GDP for the city and 15,000 jobs.”

Neither the city nor CN was willing to risk having shippers move their business to another port, Cleary said.

Attempts by CBC to obtain a comment from CN about the project were not successful.

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