PAQTNKEK: Providing safe access and creating economic opportunities for the Paqtnkek First Nation in Antigonish County, Exit 36-B, a new interchange on Highway 104 was constructed – allowing access to the southern roads of the community for the first time since 1960 when the highway was constructed.
Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Lloyd Hines, Marco Mendicino, Parliamentary Secretary to the federal minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner and Owen MacCarron, Warden for the Municipality of the County of Antigonish officially opened the Highway 104 Paqtnkek Interchange Project, this morning.
“For too long, we were denied access to our own reserve land on the south side of the highway,” PJ (Paul) Prosper explained, chief of Paqtnkek Mi’kmaq Nation. “With access, we can now create own-source revenues to support programs, services and infrastructure within our community.”
The new diamond-shaped interchange includes new north and south connector roads and a highway underpass which features four Mi’kmaq eight point star petroglyphons, two on each side of the highway; representing the balance between two realms, one of the physical and one of the non-physical.
“This development allows us to dream, and to tell our story – a story that breaks the cycle of dependancy through a lense of opportunity, a story that begins with denial and ends with reconciliation,” Prosper said. “The new interchange and access roads address a long-term access and safety issue that will bring lasting economic prosperity to Paqtnkek and surrounding communities.”
The interchange is a $15.3 million project with an $8.9 million contribution from the province and $6.4 million from the federal government’s Building Canada Fund – Major Infrastructure Component.
“Modern and efficient roadways encourage economic growth [and they] connect communities,” Cuzner said. “The opening of the Paqtnkek interchange marks the beginning of an exciting future for this community and the people of Antigonish County, bringing new jobs, businesses and tourists to our region. Thank you Chief Prosper for your leadership on this very important project.”
Hines, who is also the MLA for Guysborough-Eastern Shore-Tracadie highlighted this interchange will provide 100-series highway access to First Nations’ lands that were severed during the construction of Highway 104 in the 1960s.
“Along with improving safety, the new interchange will create economic opportunities by providing access to the land for residential expansion and commercial development,” he said. “This interchange project will act as a bridge to prosperity and a brighter future.”
It was announced in November that Wilsons Fuels and Calgary-based Husky will team up to supply an Esso-branded outlet in the community’s new $8 million showcase development, the Bayside Travel Centre.
The travel centre, which is now under construction and expected to open in the summer of 2019, will cater to professional drivers working the northeast corridor, offer 24-hour retail fuel, an electric charging station and a Band-owned and operated convenience store.
The development will also bring a much-needed amenity to the area as it earmarks two quick service restaurants, each with a drive-thru around an atrium that will feature a 50-seat public seating area with comfortable chairs and group seating, free WiFi, a bank machine, and public washrooms.