Nova Scotia

Tolls lifted for Nova Scotians driving Highway 104's Cobequid Pass

Nova Scotians who used the province's only toll highway no longer have to pay for the privilege. The provincial government has removed the tolls for all Nova Scotia registered cars and trucks.

Tolls remain for non-Nova Scotia registered vehicles

The Nova Scotia government has lifted tolls through the Cobequid Pass for Nova Scotia vehicles. (Google Maps)

Nova Scotians who have long grumbled about having to pay tolls on the Trans-Canada Highway into and out of the province have been given an early Christmas present.

The Cobequid Pass is no longer a pay-to-use section of Highway 104.

The Houston government quietly removed the charge for all Nova Scotia registered vehicles at 11 a.m. Thursday.

"This is an act that we called for a number of times in opposition," said Premier Tim Houston in a conference call with reporters. "We promised it during the [election] campaign and today the removal of the tolls on the Cobequid Pass became a reality."

Tolls will remain in place for non-Nova Scotia passenger and commercial vehicles.

About 50% of traffic from out of province 

According to figures supplied by the Department of Public Works, about 50 per cent of the traffic on the 45-kilometre stretch of Highway 104 between Masstown and Thomson Station is out-of-province vehicles.

Prior to the pandemic, that stretch of highway saw an average of 7,600 cars and 2,100 trucks a day. The toll, last set in 2004, ranges from $4 for cars up to $24 for large tractor-trailers and buses.

Revenue generated by tourists and out-of-province commercial traffic is expected to generate more money than is needed for road maintenance and keep the approximately 50 people who work at the toll plaza employed.

"We expect the revenue to be approximately $10.7 million annually," said Public Works Minister Kim Masland. "That money will then deduct the approximately $8.2 million which would be for the cost of operating the plaza." 

That leaves $2.5 million for annual upkeep on the road and other facilities. 

Rest area to go forward

The Houston government is moving ahead with one improvement announced by the previous Liberal government — a rest area for drivers. But a planned satellite maintenance facility situated about halfway along the toll section is now on hold.

The former minister for the department, Lloyd Hines, had said the facility was needed to ensure plows and other equipment could be stationed closer to where they would be needed during bad weather.

The Cobequid Pass first opened in 1997 to replace the old Highway 104, which ran through the Wentworth Valley and was dubbed the valley of death for the high number of traffic fatalities. At the time, the Liberal government said safety was a key factor in deciding to partner with private industry to build a safer alternative.

The highway cost approximately $112.9 million to construct and took 20 months to complete.

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