Tolls proposed for 8 sections of 4 busiest Nova Scotia highways
Tenders issued for twinning and charging tolls on sections of province's highways
It's been almost two decades since a Liberal government brought toll roads to Nova Scotia. Now, another liberal regime is looking at the possibility of building eight more.
A tender issued today by the McNeil government is requesting proposals for a feasibility study to conduct a province-wide examination of twinning and tolling at eight specific sections of four major highways.
Nova Scotians will get a say in the matter as the tender calls for public consultation on each stretch of road.
Geoff MacLellan, Nova Scotia's Transportation minister, said public support is key.
"If we're going put together toll projects and mega-projects of this magnitude, we've got to know that the people support it," he said.
There will be two public meetings per corridor, resulting in 16 public meetings.
"That will give us a pretty good sense on the ground of what people think," said MacLellan.
What roads might be twinned and tolled?
The plan is to look at the following sections of 100-series highways to determine whether they should be twinned and tolled:
- Highway 101 - Three Mile Plains to Falmouth - 9.5 km
- Highway 101 - Hortonville to Coldbrook - 24.7 km
- Highway 103 - Exit 5 at Tantallon to Exit 12 Bridgewater - 71 km
- Highway 104 - Sutherlands River to Antigonish - 37.8 km
- Highway 104 - Taylors Road to Aulds Cove - 38.4 km
- Highway 104 - Port Hastings to Port Hawkesbury - 6.75 km
- Highway 104 - St. Peter's to Sydney - 80 km
- Highway 107 - Porters Lake to Duke Street, Bedford - 33 km
If the province went ahead with all eight projects, it would mean twinning a total of 301.2 kilometres of highways.
Currently, the Cobequid Pass on Highway 104 is the only toll road in the province. The 45-kilometre stretch of road took 20 months to build at a cost of $96 million. Most motorists now pay a $4 toll to use it. Trucks can pay up to $24, depending on the size of the vehicle.
MacLellan says the province will only consider twining a road when there's at least 10,000 vehicles a day using it. He says most of these sections meet that threshold.
"But also it's been the public outcry in some of these areas," he said. "[Highway] 103 with Bruce Hetherington. The 104 with Joe MacDonald."
Both men have been lobbying the province for years to twin what they consider dangerous sections of both highways.
Hetherington's son, Jamie, died in a crash on Highway 103 in 2008.
"There's a lot of public opinion on what should be done, said MacLellan."That twinning is really important and it's necessary for safety."
But not everyone is convinced twinning and tolling is the answer.
Windsor resident Eric Sullivan thinks he pays enough in taxes for the province to pay for the road work itself.
"Knock a couple of more politicians out and stop paying such big high pensions to them. We'd twin all kinds of highways," he said.
But Robert Naugler thinks the stretch of the 104 between Sutherland's River and Antigonish is worth paying a toll for.
"Like, it's all big trucks. All you see, day after day, just steadily is a convoys of trucks going. There, you would need it," he said.
Carole Burke from Windsor isn't keen to pay tolls, but says they were useful when she lived in New Brunswick and tolls were in place on the highway between Moncton and Fredericton.
"I didn't have a problem paying the tolls because their highways were kept up a little bit better than what we have here," she said.
The province hopes to have a decision by this time next year as to whether tolling makes sense and what roads should be twinned.