Nova Scotia

Proposed tolls for Highway 103 panned at meeting

If twinning part of Highway 103 faster meant adding tolls, people at a public meeting Tuesday night in Bridgewater made it clear they would rather wait.

People at meeting mostly were against introducing tolls, even if it means twinning the highway sooner

Highway 103 at the Ingramport exit. (Steve Berry/CBC)

If twinning part of Highway 103 faster meant adding tolls, people at a public meeting Tuesday night in Bridgewater made it clear they would rather wait.

There are eight stretches of highway across Nova Scotia that have been identified for twinning and the province estimated it would take 30 years to do it without tolls to offset the costs. Adding tolls could get it done by 2020.

"I am absolutely against tolling," said Kim Masland, from Liverpool.

"It will just further isolate people on this end of the province going to Halifax ... a lot of seniors have to travel that highway all the time to go to specialist appointments, medical appointments."

Masland is for twinning and said there are other things the province could be doing in the mean time to reduce the number of collisions on the 103. Increased policing combined with stiffer fines for speeding and distracted driving would help, she said. 

Dangerous highway

There have been calls to twin the 68.1-kilometre section of Highway 103 between Tantallon and Bridgewater for years. 

A five year study by CBCL, a consulting firm hired by the province, found there were more than 300 collisions on this section of Highway 103 between 2010 to 2014.

There is an average of 60 to 70 collisions on that stretch of road each year.

An estimated 300 people gathered at the Best Western in Bridgewater for the meeting on tolls. (Steve Berry/CBC)

One man at the meeting said he knew the two people who were killed in a head-on collision earlier this month on Highway 103 and is still against adding tolls to the highway. He suggested adding jersey barriers — concrete or plastic fences used to separate lanes of traffic. 

A few other people suggested adding tolls would hurt businesses and discourage tourism in the area.

Tolls could mean twinning by 2020

If the province added a toll road, Highway 103 could be twinned by 2020 — reducing collisions by an estimated 20 each year.

Once twinning is finished, the consulting firm estimated it would reduce driving time by nine minutes.

The cost of twinning Highway 103 from Tantallon to Bridgewater is an estimated $448 million. If tolled it would cost between $4.08 to $6.81 per trip.

The most expensive highway to twin in Nova Scotia would be an 83.9-kilometre stretch from St. Peters to Sydney at $491.3 million. Proposed toll costs would range from $5.03 to $21.81.

Turnoffs and bedrock adds expense

The province says the Tantallon to Bridgewater stretch is especially expensive because of the number of  turn offs and exits needed and the amount of bedrock it would have to blast through.

The province surveyed 1,027 Nova Scotians about twinning by using tolls and estimated the median toll rate people were willing to pay was $0.06 per kilometre.

After the meeting, Nova Scotia's department of transportation and infrastructure said it will create a "what we heard" document and submit it to government for review.

With files from Steve Berry