The Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (TIR), in mid-December, announced a $285-million investment in capital spending on highways, bridges and roads in 2018-19.
That’s $60 million more than last year.
“Transportation is critical to ensure safe and connected communities and that is why we are making the third largest investment in transportation infrastructure in our province’s history,” TIR minister Lloyd Hines said in a department press release.
Major construction on new highways and bridges makes up $50 million of the spending increase, with much of it going towards twinning portions of Highways 101, 103 and 104.
“Antigonish is certainly going to see quite an improvement in the twinned section of the 104, but also good to see was the discussion about more money for gravel roads,” Municipality of the County of Antigonish Warden Owen McCarron told reporters, Dec. 19, after council’s regular monthly meeting – the same day as the funding announcement.
“I think the government has recognized that there has been a shortage of money for that.”
The 2018-19 Five-Year Highway Improvement Plan, as outlined in the TIR announcement, earmarks $10 million in new spending for a Gravel Road Program.
The provincial release said the program “will proactively rebuild existing gravel roads in rural Nova Scotia, improving safety and reducing maintenance costs.”
“It is an opportunity to see that program gets expanded – pushed out in different areas of the province – and certainly to Antigonish, where we are most concerned,” McCarron said, while noting the quality of similar upgrades completed in the Fairmont area in 2017.
McCarron agreed that the municipality has a “high percentage” of gravel roads, compared to paved ones, judged against other parts of the province.
“Obviously, any opportunity to have those roads improved and then, maybe, with the potential of some new paving – going forward – would provide a great opportunity for the county,” he said.
The multi-year provincial plan maps out government’s approach, year-by-year, to repairing and maintaining 23,000 kilometres of roads and highways, and 4,100 bridges, in Nova Scotia.
“The 100-series highways are the backbone of our transportation system, while gravel roads are critical for parts of rural Nova Scotia,” Hines said.
“The injection of $60 million in additional spending is expected to create more than 3,000 new jobs for the construction industry as well as spinoff benefits for local businesses.”
The Five-Year Highway Improvement Plan is subject to approval in the 2018-19 budget.