The stretch of Hwy 104 running between Sutherlands River and Antigonish will be twinned by the early 2020s, said Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines in Halifax Tuesday.
The province says that tenders for twinning the 38-kilometre stretch of the Trans-Canada will be put out by late 2019. Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal will spend next year and most of 2019 working on the design, geotechnical and planning aspects on upgrading Hwy 104 east of New Glasgow.
The planned improvements on Hwy 104 form part of $285 million in capital spending on the province’s highways, bridges and roads in 2018-19, up $60 million from last year.
“Major construction on new highways and bridges accounts for $50 million of the overall increase, with much of that initial funding focused on twinning portions of Hwy 101, 103 and 104,” said Hines.
Hines said that this was the third largest transportation investment in Nova Scotia’s history and more than 180 highway improvement projects are planned over the coming year.
For Pictou Centre MLA Pat Dunn, the government’s planned improvements to Hwy 104 came not a moment too soon.
“We’d like to see them on the ground tomorrow,” said Dunn, a Progressive Conservative.
However, he said that twinning would likely be eight years from the time preliminary surveys begin.
Dunn warned that the present two-lane highway can be treacherous, with sudden weather changes on some sections making driving a dangerous proposition.
A number of fatalities have occurred between Sutherlands River and Antigonish as a result of road conditions, according to Dunn.
While he was pleased to see the province had not forgotten about Hwy 104, he added that the PCs would hold the government accountable for any delays.
As far as I’m concerned they can’t get at it quick enough,” said Dunn.
All told, the Stephen McNeil Liberals’ latest five-year plan maps out the government’s approach to repairing and maintaining 23,000 km of roads and highways and 4,100 bridges.
The $285 million plan earmarks $115 million for major highway and bridge construction, $101.5 million for asphalt and resurfacing, $20 million in total for gravel roads, $29.1 million for bridge replacement and rehabilitation, $7 million for land purchases, $7.4 million for equipment and ferries and $5 million for design and surveying.
The gravel road funding includes an extra $10 million in new spending for routes in rural areas, which will be used for rebuilding.
“The 100-series highways are the backbone of the transportation system while gravel roads are critical for rural Nova Scotia,” said Hines.
The minister said the new investment will create 3,000 new jobs as well as spin-off benefits for other businesses.