When Nova Scotia builds an active transportation trail alongside the Highway 107 extension, it will be the first of its kind in the province.

A new four-lane highway will be built over the next five years connecting Akerley Boulevard in the Burnside area of Dartmouth to Duke Street in the Bedford-Lower Sackville area.

As part of that project, the provincial Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal will construct a four-metre-wide, paved active transportation trail alongside the highway.

The province's senior highway design engineer, Keith Boddy, said Canada has been slower to embrace this type of design, but it's not too late to start.

"These types of treatments are common around the world," he said. "They're going to be more prevalent around Canada. I can't point to specific sites, but they're coming."

'The world has changed'

Residents can expect to see more pedestrian and cycling trails built along major highways as opportunities arise, Boddy said.

"We're in the process of updating our system. We're embracing more of a holistic design approach whereby we are incorporating all users and corridors as much as we can. I'm not going to criticize 50 years ago, but when highways were built, cyclists weren't a user."

Burnside Connector

The Burnside Connector will run between the Lower Sackville-Bedford area and the Burnside industrial park. (Nova Scotia Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal)

Boddy said the last time a major urban highway was built in Nova Scotia was in the late 60s or early 70s when the Bicentennial Highway was constructed to connect the Fall River area with Bedford and peninsular Halifax.

"Things have changed. The world has changed," Boddy said. "Change is for the good, I guess, when we start to consider all the users."

A trail runs along part of Highway 4 between Glace Bay, N.S., and Sydney, but Boddy said highway speeds on that stretch are lower.

Design plans

The speed limit on the new, nine-kilometre stretch of Highway 107 will be 110 kilometres per hour.

The highway will be separated from the trail by a high-tension cable barrier on the gravel shoulder as well as a buffer of up to 10 metres.

"Whenever you have a higher-speed facility, it's always beneficial to offset things and move especially pedestrians and cyclists into an environment that's a little bit further away," Boddy said.

Multi-use path

Cape Breton Regional Municipality's multi-use active transportation path, looking toward Sydney in May 2016. (George Mortimer/CBC)

"So if there happens to be an errant vehicle, it's not going to careen off and crash into any pedestrians or cyclists or whomever happens to be using that trail."

Cyclists approve

Cycling advocacy groups applaud the plans.

Kelsey Lane, the executive director of the Halifax Cycling Coalition, said the design seems "reasonable," and she's eager to see the idea expanded to the rest of the municipality.

"We have the challenge of a really widespread geography," Lane said. "I'm interested to see how this will be applied throughout the municipality once it's finished."

Connections critical

Eliza Jackson, the sustainable transportation coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre, said the trail is "good news."

But she said it must not become a path to nowhere.

Active transportation routes already exist in parts of Lower Sackville and Bedford, including a path that begins near the exchanges of Highway 101 and Highway 102. But that trail and other trails in the Burnside area don't connect yet with the area where the new highway extension will be.

"It's really important that whatever they're building really connects to those pieces that are in place right now and really help to complete that network," Jackson said.

Sackville Bedford trail

The new active transportation trail could someday connect with an existing trail such as this one that runs along Highway 101 near Highway 102 in Lower Sackville. (Google Street View)

The Halifax Regional Municipality will be responsible for operating and maintaining the trail and ensuring that it connects with existing paths.

Municipal spokesperson Nick Ritcey said the city is committed to the project, but it's too early to comment on proposed connecting routes.

The construction of the highway and trail will also be an opportunity to extend infrastructure. Boddy said a tentative plan will see Heritage Gas and Halifax Water Commission lines run underneath the trail.