Geoff MacLellan, the minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, announced April 26 that the provincial government will be investing $390 million to twin and improve safety on Nova Scotia's highways.
Following a series of public consultations, that saw about 2,000 residents participate, MacLellan said it was clear Nova Scotians were not willing to pay tolls for the necessary upgrades.
“We did not hear overwhelming support from Nova Scotians about paying a toll for twinned highways, but they were clear we should act now to improve our roads," said MacLellan, in a press release.
“We will do that with an emphasis on safety and, at the same time, we will create economic opportunities for Nova Scotians.”
The project will see sections of twinned 100-series highways added to the existing highway plan, with the capital cost spread out over seven years.
Highway 101, from Three Mile Plains to Falmouth, which includes the Windsor causeway, and spans a total of 9.5 kilometres, is one of the sections selected for twinning.
Hants West MLA Chuck Porter has been working on seeing the area twinned for a long time – almost 11 years.
“Safety has always been my first priority. One thing about my lobbying that has been consistent is it's solely been around safety of our driving public,” said Porter, who has been lobbying to have Highway 101 twinned since getting into office.
“It's just one of those kinds of areas that we've had issues in and the more we can do to keep our public safe, and reduce collisions, the better that is,” he said.
A positive decision
Hantsport's Deputy Fire Chief Paul Maynard has seen firsthand the benefit of having a section of Highway 101 twinned.
In 2015, the Hants Journal produced A Dangerous Drive — a special series that looked into the section of Highway 101 near Windsor. In that report, Maynard described how quickly the serious nature of highway collisions was reduced. That reduction in severe accidents remains the case today.
“It's probably the only piece of highway in West Hants that's really still concerning for us in terms of high speed, high impact, high trauma type calls,” said Maynard in an interview April 26.
“You almost dreaded, as a first responder, going out to the highway when it was a single lane because you knew if it came in as a head-on collision, it's going to be a bad crash, 90 per cent of the time,” said Maynard. “Once it was divided, it was, 'OK, somebody put their vehicle off the road.' Most people walk away from those single vehicle (accidents).”
Maynard said having a divided highway also makes responding to calls safer for those involved.
“Working on a divided highway is a little bit safer than working on a two-lane where you have traffic trying to pull out to go around you and there's oncoming traffic.”
Windsor Deputy Fire Chief Jamie Juteau, who also participated in the Journal's special series two years ago, echoed Maynard's sentiments in an interview April 26.
“We're still going to have accidents but the scope of them should not be as severe as some of the ones we've been to on that stretch of road where it has not been twinned,” said Juteau.
While the focus is often on the causeway section, Juteau said they've responded to their fair share of serious accidents throughout the stretch of untwinned highway, especially near the industrial park exit.
“Anywhere where it's not twinned is problematic,” said Juteau.
“After some of the accidents that I've been to over the years, I can't wait to have it twinned. It's going to make it better for everybody and a lot safer for people to travel on. It's a great thing that they're doing this,” he said.
Not only will the divided highway result in less high-impact crashes, Juteau said it will reduce the amount of trauma on those who witness accidents.
“When you don't have to subject somebody to something as bad as what we've seen out on the highway, it's a win for everybody – not just the firefighters, but the passersby who have to deal with it as well,” he said.
The other areas are Highway 103, Tantallon to Hubbards, 22 kilometres; Highway 104, Sutherlands River to Antigonish, including Barneys River, 38 kilometres; and construction of the four-lane, divided Burnside Connector (Highway 107) between Burnside to Bedford, 8.7 kilometres.
The funding also includes $30 million for safety improvements on un-twinned sections of highway, including interchange improvements, passing lanes and turning lanes. A safety study on Highway 107 from Burnside to Musquodoboit will also be conducted.
The press release says the province will be looking to access federal cost-shared infrastructure programs and that the government has submitted business cases to the federal government for consideration.
“It's a great news story. I'm very happy the government has committed to this,” said Maynard.