As regional councillors gear up for the annual round of budget debate, they appear united on at least one front. Solutions to transportation issues, they say, should top the list of big-ticket items for 2008-09.
City staff will present the proposed budget to councillors tomorrow, just days after Mayor Peter Kelly announced plans to devote federal funding to launching a Bedford-Halifax fast ferry as early as 2010.
But Lower Sackville Coun. Bob Harvey says he expects the spotlight to fall on existing public transportation infrastructure.
Building a satellite transit garage to ease overflow at the Burnside facility, expanding transit service to rural areas and instituting electronic fare boxes are top priorities, he says.
“We can’t just focus on the Harbourlink, which really won’t hit the water for at least two years,” he said.
Downtown Coun. Dawn Sloane echoed his sentiments.
“With gas prices rising, we have to take into account how people are going to be mobile in this community,” she said.
Purcell’s Cove-Armdale Coun. Linda Mosher says traffic is a major issue for her constituents, who she says experience “the downstream effect of development.”
“I have the rotary. There’s 60,000 cars a day going through my district,” she said.
Harvey says the proposed Barrington Street Conservation Area, HRM by Design, a new World Trade and Convention Centre and a new central public library are among the projects that will be competing for a piece of the pie.
The size of that pie will depend on the final tally from 2007-08. City officials said in March that snow and ice removal had eaten through reserve funds, and was threatening to plunge HRM into the red.
If the third-quarter deficit projection proves correct, getting back in the black will be the first charge of the new fiscal year.