Province anticipates another banner year ahead for road construction
Upcoming highways plan likely to top $500M, says Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines
Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines says 2021-22 will likely be another record year for road building in Nova Scotia.
The annual government highways plan is usually out by December, but the document has been delayed by the pandemic, said Hines.
"We are anticipating that we will match or eclipse the number from last year, which will be a cumulative amount of over $1 billion spent on improving our highway system in Nova Scotia in the last two fiscal years," the minister told reporters following a cabinet meeting on Thursday.
Hines said the budget right now for roads and highways for the next fiscal year is more than $420 million, and that doesn't include what will be spent on the coming year's portion of the Highway 104 twinning project. He expects to have a number soon and then release the plan.
The province is spending more than $500 million on road work this fiscal year.
Hines said he also sees room for more highway twinning projects in the future. The government is engaged in a massive twinning program, which includes work along parts of Highways 101, 103, 104 and 107, otherwise known as the Burnside connector.
"As has been well documented, twinning highways saves lives," said Hines.
"I support more twinning. We're not through yet. I'm hoping that we're going to be able to continue. There is more that has to be done and we're reviewing that all the time."
This past fall, Hines's department started the work looking beyond 2023, the year the current twinning projects are all scheduled to be complete. Hines called highways the "economic lifeblood" and "social lifeblood" of the province.
Highways factor into leadership race
That will likely come as music to the ears of Nova Scotia Liberal Party leadership hopeful Labi Kousoulis. The Halifax Citadel-Sable Island MLA is one of three men vying to be the party's next leader and premier of Nova Scotia.
A major economic development plank in Kousoulis's platform calls for extending twinned highways all the way to Yarmouth and part of Cape Breton.
Kousoulis has said borrowing rates right now are ideal for taking on such projects. He also sees it as a way of maintaining the capacity the road building industry has developed as a result of the current twinning program.
The proposal is one of the few issues that has drawn pointed debate among leadership candidates, with Timberlea-Prospect MLA Iain Rankin criticizing it as out of touch with the realities of climate change and the need for a greener transportation system.
Hines said the delay in releasing the plan has nothing to do with the prominence twinning plays in Kousoulis's plans.
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