By Andrew Macdonald
As The Macdonald Notebook reported the other week, a solution to heavy congestion in downtown Halifax caused by truck traffic heading to Halterm was cited in a Buchanan government study nearly 30 years ago.
Long time Halifax consultant Chris Lowe authored the report in 1989 on addressing truck traffic, but his recommendations were not implemented. Like many government studies and Royal Commission reports, the study has only gathered dust on the shelves.
I had a chance to read the study this week. Lowe’s solution to Halterm and truck traffic was to re-route trucks on the abandoned Canadian National Railway cut through Halifax’s south end. Creating a road on the rail cut was one of several options in the 1989 report.
There is more interest today in diverting truck traffic on the rail cut, because the downtown is becoming an apartment and condo mecca.
Recently, leading biz titan and self-made billionaire John Risley also suggested the rail cut be used by trucks to enter the Halterm container terminal, which borders Point Pleasant Park.
Other options presented in the Lowe study include relocating Halterm and turning its present 72-acre waterfront site into a commercial and residential enclave. Or, Halterm could expand its property by harbour infilling.
Lowe also suggested a third bridge or tunnel under Halifax Harbour could be built to service the Halterm truck traffic.
“Transportation was identified as the major factor to be considered in assessing scenarios,” wrote Lowe.
For the past 12 months, Halifax Port Authority under president and CEO Karen Oldfield has been studying the idea of moving Halterm to the Imperial Oil refinery site in Dartmouth.
One problem is that a new container terminal would cost $1 billion, although hundreds of millions of dollars could be fetched selling the existing Halterm acreage. Scott Brison, the federal cabinet minister representing Nova Scotia in the Trudeau government is not keen on building a new terminal.
Even, former port board chairmen in 2017 who gathered at the invite of Oldfield told the port CEO the idea should be rejected.
But, another significant problem is that the Imperial site is not for sale. Imperial did close its refinery, but is using the site as a tank storage farm.
One solution for Halterm is a vastly cheaper $4 million ‘dolphin pier’ — a finger pier anchored by concrete to the ocean floor. That would allow Halterm to berth two 10,000 container box vessels at the same time.
For its part, Halterm’s executive has been studying its own growth ideas, and the focus is on expanding onto adjacent piers, infilling them and creating an additional 40-acre tract to expand its current 72 acres.
Halterm’s operators want to take over Piers 31, 33, 34, 35 and 36, infilling the water separating each pier.