Nova Scotia

Twinning advocates place crosses along Highway 104 for crash victims

The stretch of highway between Sutherlands River and Antigonish has seen 15 fatal crashes since 2009, says Joe MacDonald, a local fire chief and twinning advocate.

'I've seen stuff I would not wish on my worst enemy,' fire chief Joe MacDonald says

Suzannah Nickerson and Jim Barry place a cross to mark a fatal crash along Highway 104. (Joe MacDonald)

Joe MacDonald wants every crash victim to be remembered.

Saturday morning he and a few friends hammered eight white, wooden crosses into the grassy bank along Highway 104.

The stretch of Nova Scotia road, between Sutherlands River and Antigonish, has seen 15 fatal crashes since 2009, MacDonald says. As fire chief of nearby Barney's River, he was thinking of them all. 

"It wasn't too bad until you get out there doing it and start remembering different scenes," MacDonald said. "It was emotional."

Brian Cameron and Jim Barry helped put up crosses to remember crash victims. Community members want the provincial government to twin Highway 104. (Joe MacDonald)

MacDonald and others are pushing have the highway twinned in four different areas. This particular stretch was ranked third in a recent feasibility study about twinning Nova Scotia highways.

The group tried to submit a petition with 6,500 signatures calling for the road work, but the Nova Scotia House of Assembly rejected it because it was addressed to the premier and not the House, as the rules stipulate.

On Thursday Antigonish MLA Randy Delorey agreed to accept it for consideration by the governing Liberals, MacDonald said.

Fire Chief Joe MacDonald and Antigonish MLA Randy Delorey with the petition on Thursday. (Joe MacDonald)

MacDonald said he was told public consultations about twinning the Highway 104 stretch may be scheduled for the New Year.

"They did promise them in September this year, too, so we have to wait and see if that comes true," he said.

"I know it's expensive, that solution, but ... the collisions can be reduced by twinning."

The cost of twinning this 37-kilometre stretch is estimated between $232 million and $295 million, the feasibility study said.

The area averaged 39.2 crashes a year between 2010 and 2014, the study found. Twinning could reduce collisions to 11.6 per year, the report said.

Volunteers added eight crosses for people who died in crashes near Sutherlands River, N.S., along Highway 104. (Joe MacDonald)

Volunteer firefighters, normally the first on the scene in rural Nova Scotia, have quit after witnessing the crashes, MacDonald said.

"It's very traumatic," he said.

"You can't say it's not heart wrenching and affects your-day to-day life because I've seen stuff I would not wish on my worst enemy."

The eight new crosses will be left unmarked unless families decide to add the victims's names. They join at least six others dotting the stretch.