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Saint John trail expansion another step toward connecting old west side to Rockwood Park

The Cove section of Harbour Passage is slated to be completed in late 2025.  (City of Saint John - image credit)
The Cove section of Harbour Passage is slated to be completed in late 2025. (City of Saint John - image credit)

Another piece of Harbour Passage is in the works as Saint John continues trying to make the city easier to get around for people who walk and cycle.

The 400-metre addition, called "the Cove," will be a completely off-road section between Riverview Avenue and Riverview Drive — essentially connecting the road near the Reversing Falls restaurant to the one that extends along the waterfront parallel to the throughway to Market Place.

"Riverview Avenue and Riverview Drive both have sidewalks on them, and this off-road passage is going to make that connection between the two for people who want to get into the lower west end," said Tim O'Reilly, the city's director of public works and transportation.

A detailed design is due for 2024 and the project is slated for completion in late 2025.

O'Reilly said the goal is to eventually extend Harbour Passage along Riverview Drive and to the already-existing trail that begins at Market Place.

In the other direction, the plan is to eventually connect the Cove with the current endpoint of Harbour Passage at Douglas Avenue. The plan also includes extending the trail around the south end and all the way to Rockwood Park.

Councillor David Hickey says the Cove will improve connectability in the city, particularly from an 'active transportation' perspective.
Councillor David Hickey says the Cove will improve connectability in the city, particularly from an 'active transportation' perspective.

Coun. David Hickey says the Cove will improve connectability in the city, particularly from an 'active transportation' perspective. (David Hickey/Facebook)

Coun. David Hickey said the development will make the city more connected, particularly from an "active transportation perspective."

Council voted Monday to enter an agreement with the federal government, which is providing some money for the project under a program to spend $400 million over five years to support active transportation in Canada. One of the goals of active transportation, which includes walking, cycling, using a wheelchair, e-bike or scooter, is to cut emissions.

"Lower west side has always traditionally been a really difficult place to access by active transportation, whether it be walking, whether it be cycling or otherwise," Hickey said.

"And the Cove connection creates a really accessible and really easy addition to the Harbour Passage to be able to connect a really big neighbourhood in the lower west side with the rest of the Harbour Passage and ultimately uptown."

Director of Public Works and Transportation Tim O'Reilly says the yellow on the map indicates completed projects, the red not yet completed, the blue is The Cove and the pink is Ihtoli-maqahamok, gathering space project.
Director of Public Works and Transportation Tim O'Reilly says the yellow on the map indicates completed projects, the red not yet completed, the blue is The Cove and the pink is Ihtoli-maqahamok, gathering space project.

Tim O'Reilly, the city's director of public works and transportation, says the yellow on the map indicates completed projects, the red not yet completed, the blue is the Cove and the pink is Ihtoli-maqahamok, the gathering space project. (City of Saint John)

In his presentation to council on Monday, O'Reilly said the Cove project will cost almost $1.5 million, with more than $800,000 coming from the federal government. The city will contribute the remaining roughly 45 per cent.

"This really shows the transition of the Harbour Passage from something that's predominantly recreation to something that can be used as a real commuting route for folks who live in neighbourhoods that are a bit further away from the central core," Hickey said.

"And that's ultimately what we hope to do with the expansion of Harbour Passage through Tin Can Beach and then ultimately through to Rockwood Park."

An off-road, walkable, bikeable passage

The Cove was proposed as an off-street, wheelchair-accessible, walkable trail with the larger goal of providing Saint John residents infrastructure that will help them drive less to get around the city, explained O'Reilly.

"Council has a strategic plan to move up to 20 per cent of trips made by active transportation," he told council. "So you've committed to that over 10 years."

O'Reilly said Harbour Passage has played a role in these larger city goals.

Tim O'Reilly, Director of Public Works and Transportation, says Harbour Passage has been a success at getting people out of the vehicle and using other modes of transportation.
Tim O'Reilly, Director of Public Works and Transportation, says Harbour Passage has been a success at getting people out of the vehicle and using other modes of transportation.

O'Reilly says Harbour Passage has been successful at getting people out of their vehicles and using other modes of transportation. (Roger Cosman/CBC)

"Harbour Passage itself has been a huge success and very effective at getting people out of the vehicle. And whether it's recreation, health or to get from point A to point B, it's been a huge success in terms of use within our community."

Eventually, Harbour Passage will be 11 kilometres from lower west to Rockwood Park, said O'Reilly. About five kilometres have already been built.

It will soon include a gathering place called Ihtoli-maqahamok at the foot of King Street on the waterfront, which will be completed this year, he said.