Nova Scotia

Twin Highway 104 by using tolls, suggests local fire chief

A fire chief in Barneys River is renewing calls to improve the safety of Highway 104, saying a section of the Nova Scotia highway is deadly, and should be twinned even if means adding a toll.

Transportation minister says twinning is costly

Fire Chief Joe MacDonald says between 2009 and the beginning of 2014 there have been 65 accidents and nine fatalities on one section of the highway. (CBC)

A fire chief in Barneys River says a section of Nova Scotia’s Highway 104 is too dangerous, and should be twinned even if means adding a toll bridge.

As a first responder Joe MacDonald waits for the next accident call, convinced the number of fatalities will continue to increase until the road is divided.

MacDonald, the fire chief in Barneys River, has to respond to accidents on the untwinned portion of Highway 104 between Pictou County and Antigonish.

MacDonald says between 2009 and the beginning of 2014 there have been 65 accidents and nine fatalities.

In his mind, it’s enough of a case to twin the road.

“It’s a proven point. There's less fatalities on a twinned highway. Less motor vehicle collisions,” he said.

In February, a crash claimed the life of a young Cape Breton teen who had just graduated high school and was planning to attend university.

MacDonald says he's not asking that the province immediately begin twinning the fatal section, but he wants them to develop a plan.

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

He says right now, the twinning of the road isn't even on the Department of Transportation’s five-year plan.

“If you have to, twin it by tolls. They did Cobequid Pass and nobody liked it at first and now you never hear about the problems of the tolls,” he said.

The highway runs through the riding of Progressive Conservative MLA Tim Houston who supports twinning.

“It would reduce the accidents that happen on that stretch of highway and would reduce the fatalities that happen there,” he said.

Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan says safety is a priority but twinning is the Cadillac version of making roads safer.

“I’m very aware of the traffic on Highway 104 as I go back and forth there every week,” he wrote in an email.

“This type of work is very expensive and takes many years to plan and construct. Under the New Building Canada Plan, we will be having discussion with the federal government on potential projects, however, at this time it is not possible to put a timeline on further twinning on Highway 104.”