End in sight for massive road twinning project between Antigonish and Sutherlands River, N.S.
More than half of the work is complete on Highway 104
A major project twinning Highway 104 between Antigonish and Sutherlands River, N.S., has reached the two-thirds mark and locals are already anticipating the end of construction next year.
"I'll probably shed a tear or two there," said Joe MacDonald, fire chief of Barneys River Volunteer Fire Department. "It will be the happiest day of my life I think."
MacDonald has been a member of the fire department since 1987 and has seen countless collisions.
Since 2009, MacDonald estimates the dangerous section of highway has seen more than 400 collisions. RCMP statistics say in the same time period, they have responded to 16 fatal collisions and 17 serious injury collisions.
Most of the construction includes twinning of existing sections of Highway 104. A large 10-kilometre section through Barneys River will see an entirely new highway built through the hills and valleys to the south of the existing road.
"As far as manpower, at peak times, we've had over 400 people working on the site," said Bradley Cleary, the Highway 104 construction and operations manager. "We have reached over a million hours on the project to date."
The new section required clearing, blasting and building multiple bridges to span rivers and valleys. Along with the four-lane highway, Cleary said 25 bridges are being constructed and two new interchanges will be installed.
As someone who now lives in the community, Cleary knows the importance of the project.
"There's been way too many tragedies on this section of highway over the years," he said. "The important thing is this project will save lives and that's very important to all the locals."
Greg Oicle, owner of Half Cocked Brewing Company in North Grant, Antigonish County, said locals travel the highway frequently, with many commuting between New Glasgow and Antigonish for work.
Oicle has a family cottage in Pictou County and has driven many miles both personally and for work.
"We've been waiting for that to happen for a long time," Oicle said. "I deliver a lot of beer to Halifax, so I go once a week basically or every other week — so I travel it quite a bit."
MacDonald says although the twinning project would not stop all collisions from happening, it would eliminate the chance for head-on collisions.
Knowing the project is more than 60 per cent completed, MacDonald said he will breathe much easier upon completion of the highway construction.
Cleary says the project remains on schedule with an expected completion date by the end of 2023.