HALIFAX: Construction has begun for the twinning of the Highway 104 between Sutherlands River, Pictou County and Antigonish.

Crews and machinery broke ground on July 17. The project will result in a continuous twinned Highway 104 from the New Brunswick border to Antigonish, just west of Exit 31.

Dexter Nova Alliance, led by local contractors Dexter Construction and Nova Construction, with BBGI as an equity partner, was awarded the contract to design, build, finance, operate and maintain a section of Highway 104 in May.

“This is a significant project that will have a positive impact on our province for decades to come,” Ken MacLean, vice-president, Dexter Nova Alliance said. “It will be built by Nova Scotia-based companies for Nova Scotians and we are proud of that. We are looking forward to getting started and seeing this long anticipated work to completion.”

Construction is scheduled to be completed before the end of 2023.

Dexter Nova Alliance will take over ongoing operating and maintenance responsibilities for the twinned portion of the highway and another 25 kilometres of existing highway. That includes snow removal, pothole repair and any repaving that may be required over the 20-year agreement.

The Highway 104 project, part of the Trans-Canada Highway, consists of construction of a twinned highway beginning east of New Glasgow near Exit 27 at Sutherlands River, and running east to just west of Exit 31.

The project includes 28 kilometres of new two-lane twinned highway and 10 kilometres of new four-lane twinned highway. There are two new interchanges and about 24 new bridges. Dexter Nova Alliance will also upgrade the existing section of highway.

“This project will save lives and provide travellers and business with a high-quality highway for many years to come,” said Lloyd Hines, Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. “A safe and efficient highway system is essential to the economic and social well-being of Nova Scotia. Our partnership with Dexter Nova Alliance will deliver on that goal.”

The total cost of the project is $717.9 million, which includes $364.3 million for construction and $196.4 million for ongoing operations and maintenance and a major upgrade of the existing stretch of highway during the 20-year operating period. Insurance, professional fees and financing and other costs make up the remainder of the total.

The federal government is contributing $90 million to the project under the National Trade Corridors Fund.

“I am very encouraged to see the twinning of Highway 104 moving forward,” said Central Nova MP Sean Fraser. “This important project will create hundreds of good paying jobs and will foster long-term prosperity in our communities. Most importantly, upgrading this highway will save lives by significantly improving the safety of one of our region’s most dangerous stretches of highway.”

There have been 391 collisions, including 19 fatalities in 14 fatal collisions on the untwinned portion of Highway 104 from Exit 27 Sutherlands River to Exit 31 Antigonish since 2009.