Nova Scotia

Problems persist 10 years after massive Cobequid Pass shutdown, says councillor

A Colchester County councillor is unhappy that electronic warning signs at the Cobequid Pass on Nova Scotia's Highway 104 meant to notify drivers of poor weather conditions aren't working.

'Just because the lights aren't working doesn't mean you forget about it,' says Tom Taggart

About 1,500 vehicles were stranded for up to 16 hours on Highway 104 westbound in November 2008 after a sudden storm made the highway impassible. (Submitted by Kim Robinson)

A Colchester County councillor is unhappy that electronic signs at the Cobequid Pass on Highway 104 meant to notify drivers of poor weather conditions aren't working.

Located in a high-elevation area in northern Nova Scotia, the pass is well-known for experiencing weather than can be significantly worse than nearby communities.

On Tuesday night, several motorists got stuck on the toll highway during poor weather.

"Somebody needs to be responsible," said Coun. Tom Taggart. "Just because the lights aren't working doesn't mean you forget about it."

With the signs not working, he said crews should have been dispatched to divert motorists from entering the toll highway.

"When citizens know there's potential for bad weather on the pass, surely the people responsible for the maintenance would know that as well," said Taggart. "And clearly, somebody dropped the ball."

It's not clear when the signs stopped working.

Drivers pay a toll to use the Cobequid Pass. (Google Streetview)

The Cobequid Pass has a lengthy history of motorists getting stranded, the worst occurring on Nov. 19, 2008, when as many as 1,500 vehicles were stranded overnight when a sudden storm made the section of the Trans-Canada Highway from the toll booths to Glenholme impassable.

Some stranded travellers spent as many 16 hours stuck in their vehicles.

On Thursday, the Municipality of the County of Colchester council decided to send a letter to the provincial Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal department to get answers about what happened.

In a statement to CBC News on Monday, Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal spokesperson Marla MacInnis said the electronic billboards are used in special circumstances and are not operational 24/7.

"They are updated using remote connection infrastructure allowing staff to post the updates from their phones. The issue we experienced on Tuesday, Nov. 13, was with the cellular connection. We are looking at ways we can improve this connection," she said.

MacInnis said that staff were on-site at the Cobequid Pass to divert traffic on Tuesday night.

"Staff also worked diligently to clear the highway ahead of the blockages," she said.

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