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The comments are plentiful every time another fatal crash occurs on the Trans-Canada Highway, in the eastern part of Pictou County. The call goes out to get this portion of Highway 104 twinned – otherwise expect more deaths.

Upgrading the TCH through Nova Scotia has been a long, arduous process. Each phase involves funding from both the province and federal government. We’ve got a long way to go, and the monetary cost is tremendous.

But again, so is the cost in lives.

The fire chief for the Barneys River Fire Department, Joe MacDonald, has added his voice asking the provincial government to make it a priority. That won’t come as a surprise, since his volunteer department is one that has to respond to many crashes along a twisty stretch of highway that also has some steep grades. We could say people need to drive more carefully, but all it takes is a moment of inattention from one.

MacDonald calls on the government to recognize the need to twin “this stretch of deadly road ASAP even if it has to be a toll road.”

That’s an interesting possibility, one that will get a lot of different responses.

If a political party made such a proposal, it would turn into the typical hot potato. Most parties would prefer not to be the one behind setting up a toll booth.

We’ll recall in the 1990s when the two-lane portion of TCH through the Wentworth Valley, dubbed ‘Death Valley’ for similar reasons, got priority attention. The solution there was a public-private partnership, with a tolled section.

Also note, toll roads are in place on many highways in the U.S. and parts of Quebec. It’s not like they’re unheard-of, and traffic doesn’t grind to a halt.

Perhaps coming from a group of volunteers that has seen far too much loss of life, mention of a tolled portion could be viewed by members of the public more objectively.

It’s worth floating the idea and testing the public’s response. Even if it’s not everyone’s favourite solution, consider the alternative.

Organizations: Barneys River Fire Department, ASAP

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, Wentworth Valley, Death Valley U.S. Quebec

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