The public consultation process on the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal’s (TIR) highway twinning report will be making stops in the region.
The sessions, which run from 6:30-8:30 p.m., will take place Monday, Feb. 13, at the Claymore Inn in Antigonish, and Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre in Port Hawkesbury.
“Nova Scotians have asked us to have this conversation and we want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard,” Geoff MacLellan, TIR minister, said in a press release announcing the public consultation process.
“Government will only explore tolling further if Nova Scotians tell us to.
“I encourage anyone interested to review the materials and let us know what they think,” he added.
Chief Joe MacDonald, of the Barney’s River Volunteer Fire Department, who has been at the forefront of the push to twin a Trans-Canada stretch between Sutherland’s River and Antigonish, talked about the importance of the community turning out for the sessions.
“It was wonderful for the cause,” he told the Casket, noting the “huge crowd” that turned out for the session on the previous night at the Pictou County Wellness Centre.
“I know the majority was for the toll roads and getting it done now rather than later.”
CBCL Limited, a Nova Scotia-based engineering firm, completed the report, which ranks the feasibility of twinning eight sections of highway in the province.
The criteria used for the study included safety and the number of collisions, cost versus projected revenue, average traffic per day, travel time and travel cost savings, environmental concerns and land acquisition.
The eight sections, which cover 301.2 kilometres of roadway, include Highway 104, Sutherland’s River to Antigonish, 37.8 km; Highway 104, Taylors Road to Auld’s Cove, 38.4 km; Highway 104, Port Hastings to Port Hawkesbury, 6.75 km; and Highway 104, St. Peter’s to Sydney 80 km.
In an update of its twinning with tolls report, CBCL announced it is financially feasible to twin the Sutherland’s River-Antigonish and Taylors Road-Auld’s Cove sections.
Initially, the firm had concluded using tolls to help twin those sections would be too costly. It noted more information related to traffic volume, along with advanced cost estimates, placed the projected price tag for tolls within the range drivers had said they are willing to pay.
MacDonald said he was not surprised by the traffic volume numbers.
“It is something you see every day travelling that roadway,” he added.
MacDonald reiterated the need for people to provide feedback.
“They will learn how it could be done and the alternatives,” he said, noting people are asked to provide feedback on the best option, as part of questions asked during the round table discussions.
If they cannot make a public session, he noted the online option.
“You can make your comments known,” he said.
“Nothing is written in stone yet.”
Along with the in-person sessions, people can submit feedback at https://novascotia.ca/twinning/ or by mail.
Material presented at the sessions, and the complete CBCL report, are also available online.
MacDonald also reminded of the continuing push to twin the Sutherland’s River to Antigonish stretch, noting his group’s Facebook page and website – twinhighway104.com