The NW Arm Bridge

Parallel to the work being done on harbour drive, Halifax set out to solve a number of other traffic problems in the city. The 1945 Master plan for the city of Halifax identified the need for a bridge over the northwest arm to connect to the suburbs in the Halifax County community of spryfield. The Harbour Drive Functional report also called on the city to build a bridge over the northwest arm, and a second harbour crossing.

The need for a crossing across the North West Arm first came to Council in October 2 1963. The first idea proposed in March 1966 was a $2million North West Arm Causeway. Part of the project involved replacing the Armdale rotary with a series of overpases. A Model requested to show to citizens, size and elevations of the project. That June, council was presented with a Letter of opposition signed by 600 residents against a causeway across the arm north of the public baths.

One of the proposals for replacing the Armdale Rotary. This proposal assumes a NW Arm Bridge by 1974.

The rotary was constructed in 1953, with a capacity of 20000 vehicles per day. The rotary replaced a 5 way intersection, but by 1963 it was seeing close to double its design capacity at 37,000 vehicles per day.

Another Proposal for the Armdale Rotary – this assumes no NW Arm bridge until 1984.

Residents were concerned that proposed improvements to the rotary would block views from Dutch Village Rd (Now Joe howe) of the Arm. There were also concerns that the causeway would delay construction of a bridge over the North West Arm, compound traffic problem rather then relive it, and render the water north of the causeway stagnant leading to its eventual infill, and render the public baths useless.

The Public Baths were located on what is know Horseshoe Island, and served as a popular bathing beach. The baths consisted of a Substantial 100 stall (50men, 50 women) change room and shower structure. The plans below are form the Halifax Archives, and show the Public Baths as they existed in 1926, with a substantial beach.

A Council committee met with minister of highways in June 1966. At the meeting, A model was on display, and reports produced by Fenco Engineering Co Ltd. The Provinces Department of Highways was against grade separation at rotary – citing concerns about aesthetics, the cost of acquiring land, and a lack of relief roads.

The city’s preferred solution was a bridge at Robie, but it was felt this would not solve rotary traffic flows. The City was also concerned that if city annexed Spryfield, city would be on the hook for bridge/causeway not province. Ther was also the matter of the outstanding Pratley study on 2 harbour bridges – NW ARM and Narrows then underway for HDBC

The North West Arm Bridge would eventually get linked to the second harbour crossing. Pratly’s report had proposed two possible locations for the crossing. A south end tunnel to Dartmouth at the foot of Morris Street, or a second bridge across the Narrows. The Functional plan for Harbour drive included accommodations for both a narrows bridge, a south end tunnel, and twinning the MacDonald with a second parallel bridge.

By August 1964, there was agreement of need for second harbour crossing was confirmed by premier. If the Halifax, Dartmouth and County councils decide on narrows crossing, the province would direct HDBC to build bridge and provide financing. later that month, Halifax Council passed a motion endorsing this, along with robie street improvements and NW Arm bridge.

The city of Halifax preferred a south end crossing, as it felt the Narrows bridge would benefit the county and Dartmouth mostly as it bypassing Halifax.

The city of Dartmouth rejected the south end option, and preferred the narrows bridge or twinning the MacDonald. A south end tunnel was estimated at a cost of $40million vs $20million for the narrows bridge with approach roads. Narrows bridge first proposed in October 1964.

In the Summer of 1965, the city of Halifax looked at its priorities. Fixing the rotary, the North west arm Bridge, were more important to the city then the narrows crossing. Halifax attempted to linking its support of a narrows bridge with the nw arm bridge. That fall, the Hdbc was instructed by the Nova Scotia Government to build and operate second crossing. HDBC chooses narrows site.

At the same time the city received a letter from Nova Scotia premier Robert Stanfield, indicating that studies into the North west arm bridge state that the bridge would not be needed until 1973, and if built prior to then would run at a deficit. He was instructing the HDBC to update the studies, and committed the province to help with Rotary improvements.

in June 1966 an examination of rotary improvements comes before council. Overpasses wont help, and will be expensive and ugly. In the end it was decided instead to add a right turn lanes from Herring cove to Quinpool, and from Dutch Village Rd to St.Margarets Bay Rd allowing traffic to bypass the rotary. They would also widen the rodary by shrinking centre circle, and widen herring cove rd from the rotary to Purcells cove rd. and install lights there. These changes would last until 2004, when the rotary took its current configuration.

Council passed a motion in September to build Narrows bridge per Plan B of Pratly report and the NW Arm Bridge per Plan C – at cost of $35 million. the next spring, with planning continuing, the approaches for narrows bridge approved Plan TT-7—l6898. council also entertains discussions about building elevated highway over railcut, so robie remains residential in the south end.

The Regional planning commission weighed into the debate in June 1967, suggesting deferring the arm bridge to later date. this suggestion goes against the cities call for simultaneous construction of the Northwest Arm bridge with the Narrows bridge. Councils rescinds its motion of support for the Narrows bridge.

“NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Halifax demand, that the Halifax—Dartmouth Bridge Commission make immediate application to the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia, for financial assistance necessary to start the immediate construction of the North West Arm Bridge.” 

Council, October 26,1967

The Bridge Commission had wanted the city of halifax to Pay for the Halifax approaches to the bridge. When the Planning commission suggested deferring construction, it was suggested that HDBC could build approaches for narrows bridge with funds that were intended for arm bridge. Halifax was not thrilled at paying for part of a bridge they didn’t want, while not getting the one they did.

In the end, with no Northwest arm bridge forthcoming, council sent a letter to the bridge commission indicating it couldn’t pay for the approaches to the narrows bridge.

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