Nova Scotia

Fatal crash on Highway 104 renews bid to twin 37-km stretch of road

Barneys River Fire Chief Joe MacDonald says it's time to twin Highway 104 to prevent tragedies such as the one that took the life of a mother of two young children Monday.

It could cost up to $250 million to twin the highway between Sutherlands River and Antigonish

After responding to dozens of collisions on Highway 104, Barneys River Fire Chief Joe MacDonald says it's not a matter of whether someone else will die, it's a question of when and where. (Elizabeth McMillan/CBC)

It's a part of the job Barneys River Fire Chief Joe MacDonald hates.

He says he's had to respond to too many collisions on Nova Scotia's Highway 104. The latest was a fatal crash Monday afternoon on an untwinned section of highway in Broadway, Pictou County.

"It's just in the back of my mind at all times," he said. "You know it's going to happen again. You got two cars meeting 100 kilometres an hour. There has to be some carnage out of it." 

A woman, 35, was driving her two small children when another vehicle crossed the centre line and caused a three-car crash. She died and her children survived.

She was the 15th person to die since 2009 on the untwinned 37-kilometre stretch of the 104 between New Glasgow and Antigonish.

Death zone

Tammy MacLaren of New Glasgow has organized an online twinning petition that now has close to 6,000 supporters.

"The amount of traffic that is on this single-lane Trans-Canada Highway? We have outgrown it and it's been shown time and time again that it has to be twinned," said MacLaren.

A 35-year-old woman was driving her two small children when another vehicle crossed the centre line and caused a three-car crash. She died and her children survived. (Joe MacDonald)

"I don't take my girls on that highway. I call it the death zone... If you don't know that highway, you don't know there is a couple very short passing lanes and if you get stuck out there, with a lot of heavy traffic, then bad things can happen." 

MacLaren says the province is expected to release an update on highway twinning projects around the province next month.

$240M to upgrade

The province says an engineering and environmental consulting firm, CBCL Limited, is studying eight sections of the 100-series highways and one of the things they're considering is whether upgrades could be paid for with tolls.

In total, they're looking at 300 kilometres, including several sections of the 104. 

The Transportation Department says it could cost between $240 million and $250 million  to twin the highway between Sutherlands River and Antigonish. 

'​We need to get it done'

"Every accident, it's just — 'Why? Why do we have to wait?'" said MacDonald. "It just brings it home all over again and we need to get it done."

As he has done on several occasions, MacDonald emailed the premier and transportation minister asking them to twin the section of highway.

"The only way of preventing this from happening to other families is to twin this deadly highway ASAP," MacDonald wrote. 

"As we say goodnight to our children tonight, give them an extra hug. Two kids tonight will not have their Mom to do this ever again. We do not want this to happen to any more."

Willing to pay

MacDonald says he'd pay for peace of mind. 

"I'm willing to pay two, four dollars a day for the safety of myself and my family," he said.

Last December, MacLaren decorated a tree along the side of the 104 with red Christmas balls. There were 14 balls, each of them marking a life lost on the untwinned road.

She'll have to add a 15th this year. She hopes it's the last. 

With files from Elizabeth McMillan