AULDS COVE: Nova Scotia’s Department of Public Works’ acting director of the eastern district says work is well underway on the construction and alignment of a new intersection across from the Irving Big Stop in Aulds Cove.

Paul Colton told The Reporter in an interview on May 5, they are relocating the intersection on the highway of Route 344 and Highway 104.

“We’re moving the intersection to the east; so this is going to include a short re-alignment of Route 344.”

The reason Public Works is including the re-alignment, he said, was to better align with the entrances of the Irving Big Stop.

After a study was commissioned by Nova Scotia’s Department of Public Works, the intersection is now going to be moved east and add left-turn lanes in both directions.

“With that movement, it’s going to allow us to install a left-hand turning lane into the Big Stop at the east entrance, there’s currently one at the west entrance,” Colton said. “So this will allow us to add a second left-hand turning lane.”

Additional motivation beyond clearing up the intersection and making the 100-series highway safer, it will become less confusing for out-of-towners on the correct road rules.

“A lot of times when the trucks are going into the Irving, they’re kind of directed to the west entrance, but a lot of them prefer the east entrance as it allows them to get in back, to the pumps in behind Irving,” Colton said. “So it’s kind of a better flow for them to use the east entrance, so with the addition of the left-turn lane that will allow that turning movement of the trucks and make for safer operation of that intersection.”

The intersection is vital for the people of the Town of Mulgrave, Mayor Ron Chisholm previously suggested, 90 per cent of the people have to leave town to go to work, with many of them travelling via Aulds Cove.

In addition to work, Mulgrave residents must also travel out of town – with the Aulds Cove intersection being the closest access point – for groceries, gas and medical care.

“I know it has happened to me at least a dozen times in the last year … they flip you the bird and blow the horn, and tell you to go and you can’t see around this tractor trailer,” Chisholm said in a January 2022 interview. “So, if you pull out in front of somebody, who’s at fault? You are because you pulled out to pass this tractor trailer and go into Mulgrave.”

When asked if community concern played a role at all getting this particular project off the ground, the eastern district director suggested while it may not have impacted the overall status of the project, they did receive a number of concerns from community members in the Town of Mulgrave.

“We kind of got he go ahead for the project last year, we’ve been working pretty hard on the process, we got the job out to tender in the fall,” Colton said. “We had to work with CBNS Railway as well, because they need to re-locate the rail crossing right on Route 344. It’s been quite a process, but I’m happy with the way things are progressing.”

They are currently in the process of procuring the equipment needed to install the new rail crossing later this summer or early fall.

“Of course, safety improvements are of the upmost importance to our department, so when we hear concerns we always look at them seriously,” Colton said. “And if there’s some improvements that are needed to happen, such as this case, we take action to try and make those improvements.”

The project was awarded late last summer, with some initial clearing work being completed in the fall and he indicated just this past week the contractor is back on site starting to re-align Route 344.

“That work has started and will probably go on for the next few weeks,” Colton said. “There’s going to be some work to construct the new piece of Route 344, get the culverts in place and to get the sub-grade work done.”

He suggested there will be another phase of work to be completed once the infrastructure ordered by the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway for the new railway arrives, to get the crossing 100 per cent completed.

“Once that’s done, we can finalize the paving and complete the project,” Colton said. “We’re glad we’re able to get this project going, and we’re happy it will be a big safety improvement to this intersection, that’s something we’re always striving to do at the department, improving safety along our highways.”

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Drake Lowthers has been a community journalist for The Reporter since July, 2018. His coverage of the suspicious death of Cassidy Bernard garnered him a 2018 Atlantic Journalism Award and a 2019 Better Newspaper Competition Award; while his extensive coverage of the Lionel Desmond Fatality Inquiry received a second place finish nationally in the 2020 Canadian Community Newspaper Awards for Best Feature Series. A Nova Scotia native, who has called Antigonish home for the past decade, Lowthers has a strong passion in telling people’s stories in a creative, yet thought-provoking way. He graduated from the journalism program at Holland College in 2016, where he played varsity football with the Hurricanes. His simple pleasures in life include his two children, photography, live music and the local sports scene.