Canadian Consulting Engineer

Cogswell Interchange “albatross” to come down in Halifax

Halifax Regional Council last week approved plans to take down a major road interchange at the north end of downtown and redevelop a 16-acre area of prime land around it.

May 21, 2014   Canadian Consulting Engineer

Halifax Regional Council last week approved plans to take down a major road interchange at the north end of downtown and redevelop a 16-acre area of prime land around it.

The council adopted the Cogswell Lands Plan on May 13, based on a report by Ekistics Planning & Design (Rob LeBlanc) in association with SNC-Lavalin (Roger Boychuck, Bernadette Landry), Colliers International, OCL Services and Davis MacIntyre & Associates.

The plan calls for the demolition of the Cogswell interchange, which was built in 1971. It was part of a large urban renewal project for which blocks of slums were razed. The interchange was supposed to connect to an elevated six-lane highway that would allow suburban dwellers to coast into the city. However, the transportation plan, which was designed by Toronto’s A.D. Margison & Associates, was dropped, leaving the interchange underused. Today it carries 55-70% of its capacity, or around 55,000 vehicles every day.

The interchange has now been dismissed as a “concrete albatross” and a “relic of a different time” by the mayor of Halifax. In its place, the new urban planning approach is to create a new gateway into the downtown, with roundabouts that will divert traffic into a more traditional street grid. These streets will connect with the traditional neighbourhoods to the west and south and create a mixed-use area with plenty of open spaces.

The first stage of work is to establish a project office which will be staffed by “outside consultants” and municipal staff. Staff have already been authorized to issue a request for proposals to obtain the expertise necessary to do detailed design. Implementing the plans will involve major disruption, says the Halifax Region, requiring demolishing the existing infrastructure and changing underground services. It is expected that building the new roads alone will take five years, and this will be followed by a build-out of the different lots to take between 8-13 years.

Demolishing the interchange and area around it gives the city a rare opportunity to redevelop a valuable piece of prime downtown property, emphasizing people over the automobile and creating memorable places where people will live, work and play, says the city. The redeveloped area extends north to the Angus L. Macdonald bridge and includes a sewage treatment plant at the northern end, which is envisaged as becoming a source of district energy. The area also incorporates the naval dockyards, Casino Nova Scotia and Purdy’s Wharf. There will be six acres of roads, six acres of mixed-use development, and four acres of parks and open spaces. There will be curb-separated bike lanes, and green space connections to Halifax Common to the west.

The redevelopment plans have evolved from years of earlier studies, including an engineering technical study by Vaughan Engineering done in 2001.

To view the Ekistics report, “Cogswell Transformed: A Plan for the Redevelopment of the Cogswell Interchange,” dated April 2014, click here.


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