Construction on the $717.9 million twinning project of Highway 104, the section of highway connecting mainland Nova Scotia to Cape Breton Island, broke ground on July 17, 2020.

HALIFAX: Improving the efficiency of one of the province’s busiest transportation corridors, the transportation minister said the twinning project of highway 104, will create a safer roadway for everyone.

Minister of Transportation and Active Transit, Lloyd Hines, told The Reporter the section of highway between Sutherlands River and Antigonish is now an active construction zone, and will be for the next two-and-a-half-years.

“We know that twinned highways save lives, so that’s the underlining principle we have,” Hines said. “It’s certainly going to be a real contribution to our safety and our transportation ability in terms of feeding Cape Breton freight and also the Newfoundland traffic along the 104.”

The province’s P3 partner, Dexter Nova Alliance, led by Dexter Construction and Nova Construction, was awarded the contract to design, build, finance, operate and maintain this section of Highway 104 in May 2020.

According to a release from the province, since 2009, there have been 391 collisions, including 14 fatal collisions that have claimed 19 lives, on this highway.

“This stretch of highway has seen too many tragedies over the years and we know twinning this section will save lives,” Hines said in the release. “I ask motorists for their patience and encourage everyone to drive with caution, be aware of construction zones and watch out for our workers.”

The minister said there is going to be 28-kilometres of new, two-lane, twinned highway and 10-kilomtres of four-lane, twinned highway, two new interchanges, and 24 new bridges.

Dexter Nova Alliance will also upgrade the existing section of highway, Hines said, which includes replacing all bridges and overpasses to bring the highway’s infrastructure to the same vintage.

Earlier this month, westbound climbing lanes in the Telford area and eastbound lanes in the Broadway area were necessarily removed to facilitate the construction activities.

“There’s going to be quite a bit of construction, we’re going to see the major part of the construction start this season,” Hines said. “To the public that’s going to create some delays and interference along that stretch of road, during the next really two-and-a-half-years until it’s built.”

He indicated they’re focusing on building the new twinned lanes and suggested within the calendar year, some of the switch-over would occur.

“The new four lane highway will not be effecting traffic, it’s going to be off to the side of what we currently use,” Hines said. “It’s expected they can go full boar on that more easily, because they don’t have traffic management issues around that.”

As for the project’s timeline, Hines said it’s on schedule, nothing they haven’t been impacted due to COVID-19, as construction had an exemption under the COVID public health order.

The total cost of the project is $717.9 million, with the federal government contributing $90 million under the National Trade Corridors Fund. Construction is scheduled to be completed by 2023.

” We want to get the word out there that people be extra cautious driving through that section because the next two years we’re going to be under construction,” Hines said. “At the end of the day, the prize is worth the wait.”