‘It’s dangerous’: N.S. community forced to cross highway daily may finally have hope

Residents of a mobile home park in Lower Sackville, N.S., are pleading for a better pathway to services in their area — as many are resorting to crossing a dangerous highway to access groceries and transit services.

Since 2011, two people have been struck by vehicles and died in an attempt to cross this section of Nova Scotia’s Highway 101.

Rob Davis, who lives in the Sackville Manor Mobile Home Park, said people prefer to illegally cross the Beaverbank Connector instead of taking a lengthier alternative which forces people in the opposite direction and around in a loop — as it saves a considerable amount of time.

“There’s just no access,” Davis said, adding that something “needs to be done” to eliminate the risks associated with pedestrian travel, especially considering the number of kids living in his neighbourhood.

“The bus terminal that 90 per cent of us use is on the other side of the highway. Our groceries, everything is on the other side of the highway.”

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Davis said a friend of his, who didn’t own a car, died about five years ago after being struck by a vehicle while attempting to cross the road.

“That’s how he got his groceries. He walked every day and didn’t have a vehicle,” he explained. “There’s a lot of people in here who don’t.

“It’s dangerous.”

A staff report indicated that about nine people cross this section of the highway daily. Skye Bryden-Blom

Tyler Hillier, who lives in Sackville Manor, said he crosses the highway weekly to pick up essentials.

“You got to go all the way down there or else you’re looking at an hour and a half walk to get down to Downsview (Mall), compared to this method which is about ten minutes out of here,” he said.

“We’re trying to carry stuff home as well. Because of that, you usually have to go down that way and then you put yourself at risk of getting hit by any person who is going way too fast. There’s so much risk involved with it just because that’s your only option really.”

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Hillier said it would take about an hour to walk to the nearest bus stop — without crossing the highway — as no bus routes travel through his neighbourhood.

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“We have almost no access to any sort of public transportation or anything,” he explained.

“So, our only option is (to) walk the highway.”

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Council passes motion to move ahead

In a new report reviewed by Halifax Regional Council on Tuesday, municipal staff recommended that Halifax councillors approve a combination of multi-use pathways and bridges for pedestrian and cycling crossing between the mobile home park and Old Sackville Road.

“There is no legal or safe way for people to walk between the Sackville Manor Mobile Home Park and the Sackville Transit Terminal,” the report stated, adding that the ramps associated with Exit 2 of the adjacent Highway 101 pose a threat to crossing pedestrians.

“While pedestrians are prohibited from crossing this location, a small number do cross it as it is the fastest and most direct way for residents of the Sackville Manor Mobile Home Park to access transit, and also the stores and services of the Downsview Mall.”

Halifax Regional Council passed a motion to move ahead with the report in the consent agenda on Tuesday.

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Coun. Paul Russell, who represents the Sackville area, said the municipality will move ahead with the “right option” once it receives adequate provincial funding for the project.

“We are going to be moving forward on our end and reaching out to the province,” he said, adding that he isn’t sure what design the municipality will settle on yet — as there are several.

9 people cross busy highway daily: report

The report from Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) staff noted that the current highway and interchange design creates a barrier that separates the mobile home neighbourhood from nearby stores and services.

The shortcut route, which is illegal and crosses a busy highway, reduces travel time by about 50 per cent.

“A 45-minute trip turns into a 15–20-minute trip,” the report explained, citing this as a safety risk due to vehicles regularly travelling at high speeds in this area.

In a 2022 study commissioned to determine the number of people crossing Highway 101, nine people were counted walking across this stretch of road throughout a 12-hour period — indicating that pedestrians use the Exit 2 interchange along the shoulder of the road and cross traffic at several locations.

This path leads people from the Sackville Transit Terminal back to the Sackville Manor Mobile Home Park neighbourhood. Skye Bryden-Blom

“It is a relatively low number because of the limited number of destinations on the Sackville Manor Mobile Home Park side and because it is dangerous and illegal,” the report said.

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Following a multi-year process that involved an analysis of the area and several public feedback sessions, several concept options were drawn up for potential pedestrian pathways.

As a result, the most popular design amongst respondents, known as “Concept 1”, included a 3.5-metre-wide multi-use path that begins in the mobile home park and ends at the Sackville Transit Terminal. The path would be routed along the shoulder of an on-ramp, passing through the Exit 2 interchange via a bridge.

The total distance of this particular design would be about 500 metres — aligning with the current prohibited route that residents already take. The staff report recommended this design as the best option.

Another preferred design, known as “Concept 3”, also includes a multi-use path and two underpasses through the Exit 2 interchange. It would also be the quickest and least expensive to develop, according to the report.

“While it was not as popular as Concept 1, it was commonly mentioned as still an acceptable option and a major improvement to the status quo especially if additional features are addressed to increase safety and the level of comfort for women and seniors,” an overview read.

The recommended design, a multi-use path with two bridges, is estimated to have a $7.6-million price tag. The second most popular design, a multi-use path with two underpasses, is expected to cost about $5.1 million. Another option exists at $9.3 million.

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“The cost to cover some, or all, of this capital is not factored into HRM’s 10-year capital plan,” the report said.

“The recommended approach is that other orders of government cover most, or all, of the construction costs.”

The report concluded that if the municipality didn’t move forward with one of the recommended options, then residents living in the Sackville neighbourhood would continue to be at “high risk of injury or death” when using the informal crossing.

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