STRAIT AREA: A provincial study says it will be expensive to use tolls to twin highways in parts of the Strait area.

A Nova Scotia highway twinning feasibility study found that tolls for sections of highway between Port Hastings and Port Hawkesbury, as well as St. Peter’s to Sydney, have a poor financial viability.

The briefing came after the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (DTIR) began hosting public consultations to find out if Nova Scotians support using tolls to accelerate highway twinning.

In the Strait area, meetings are set for the Claymore Inn in Antigonish on February 13, the Tara Lynne Community Centre in River Bourgeois on February 22, and the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre on February 23. All sessions will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The sessions will include 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 (km) section of Highway 104 from Sutherlands River to Antigonish, a 38.4 km section from Taylors Road to Auld’s Cove, a 6.75 km section from Port Hastings to Port Hawkesbury, and a 80 km section from St. Peter’s to Sydney.

Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Geoff MacLellan said the plan for the province is to get as much information as possible.

“We are neutral in this,” said MacLellan.
“We are very proud of the robust capital plan we have as a province at this point but should we want to twin highways at a much faster pace than we currently have, then we’re going to have to look at alternative forms of financing and the tolling option is one of the ways we can do that.”
MacLellan said the province will use this information to determine a consensus.

“We want to get into communities and explain how [the report] works, what the methodology was, where the numbers came from and let people provide their feedbacks, opinions, and perspective,” said MacLellan.
“Not only are we giving this information and asking for those in attendance to give their opinions, we also are going to be open to new ideas and things that we may have not thought of that could be part of this overall decision making process and ultimately deciding how we proceed in the future.”

The study lists the cost of twinning at just over $285 million for the Sutherland’s River to Antigonish section, $279.2 million for Taylor’s Road to Auld’s Cove, $87 million for Port Hastings to Port Hawkesbury, and $491 million for St. Peter’s to Sydney.

The study also listed the average daily traffic (ADT) at around 8,000 for the Sutherland’s River section, and suggested a toll range of $2.27 to $3.78. It also listed the ADT for the Taylor’s Road section at 8,000 and a suggested toll range of $2.37 to $3.95. The ADT for the Port Hastings section is also 8,000 and the toll range is $0.42 to $0.84, while the ADT for the St. Peter’s section is 2,000 and the toll range is $5.03 to $21.81.

The study also surveyed around 1,000 residents and the estimated median toll rate people were willing to pay was six cents per kilometre.