ANTIGONISH: Twinning and tolling were the main topics of conversation at a public meeting last week.

On March 2, the Claymore Inn in Antigonish hosted a public consultation session on highway twinning. The meeting was scheduled for February but was postponed because of inclement weather.

The meeting included information on a report from engineering firm CBCL Limited ranking the feasibility of twinning sections of highway based on criteria such as safety concerns, the number of collisions, cost versus projected revenue, and average traffic.

The highway sections being looked at include a 37.8-kilometre stretch of Highway 104 from Sutherlands River to Antigonish, a 38.4-kilometre section from Taylors Road to Auld’s Cove, a 6.75-kilometre section from Port Hastings to Port Hawkesbury, and an 80-kilometre section from St. Peter’s to Sydney.

The discussion at the Antigonish meeting, like the previous meetings, focused on the need for twinning, and people’s opinions of using tolling to expedite the process.

It was standing room only during a public consultation session on highway twinning at the Claymore Inn in Antigonish on March 2.

During the public questions and discussion portion of the meeting, a number of people voiced concerns and issues to the panel. A number of people stated twinning needs to happen to the sections of highway in Antigonish, but while some suggested tolling is the way to go, others stated tolling would take too long and others still felt residents are paying too much in taxes already. Some suggested cost-sharing with the federal government while a number of people suggested a greater RCMP presence is needed in order to help curb collisions.

Bruce Fitzner, executive director of infrastructure programs with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said the Antigonish meeting was similar to the previous meetings but felt there was a higher percentage of people in favour of twinning and tolling. Fitzer said there was a similar sentiment at the Pictou County meeting, where residents also expressed concerns about the current Sutherlands River-to-Antigonish section.

“My sense was that ‘If it takes tolls to do it, let’s get on with it,’” said Fitzer of the general opinion at the Antigonish meeting.

“There were a few that had different ideas but it seemed like by and large the crowd was more ‘let’s get going, however you’re going to fund it.’”

The province is hosting its final meeting on March 9, which Fitzer said should wrap up the consultations. Once the consultations are finished, the province will tabulate all the information gathered through the meetings and other correspondence, including on-line surveys, into a report for the province.

“I suspect that will be done relatively quickly,” he said.

“I think we’re pleased with the level of participation in this consultation and it’s been valuable