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Local fire chief says highway tolls a small price to pay for safety

A banner hangs on the Barney's River Fire Department encouraging people to support twinning the Hwy 104 through to Antigonish.
A banner hangs on the Barney's River Fire Department encouraging people to support twinning the Hwy 104 through to Antigonish.

Barneys River Fire Chief Joe MacDonald knows there are people who don’t want to pay tolls.

He’s heard the arguments against them, with the central opposition being people feel they are paying too much in taxes already and don’t want to pay anymore.

He’s heard the arguments against them, with the central opposition being people feel they are paying too much in taxes already and don’t want to pay anymore.

But MacDonald believes that the tolls are a small price to pay for increased safety, particularly along the stretch of 104 from Sutherlands River, Pictou County, to Antigonish.

A study released Monday states that tolls would be between $2.27 to $3.78 for the 37.8 km stretch and would reduce the number of collisions by 11.6 per year.

But those are just data. What MacDonald thinks about is people.

He thinks of the 15 people who have died since 2009 and the 363 other accidents people have been involved in.

He thinks about the first responders, like those on his fire department who have had to deal with gruesome accidents where people are killed or forever injured. He thinks about the families of those who died, people who come back to the stretch of highway to visit a cross where their loved one died because they never came home. He thinks about those with bodies that are injured and will never fully recover.

“I’d rather be poor and have my family beside me and living than the alternative,” he says. “I’ve seen personally and professionally how this affects families. It’s just unreal.”

Just last summer there was a woman who came with her daughter to show her where her grandmother had died.

Another man he knows lost his leg in early 1980s and still lives with the effects.

Rumble strips and better markings have been tried and are good, but he believes that real change won’t happen until the highways are divided.

“Why not get it done now within a reasonable time?” he asks.

He’s been told the projects could be completed within five years if given the go-ahead and with funding from tolls.

He hopes that people in the county will support the decision to add tolls.

“If we want safer highways, we’re going to have to step up,” he said.

MacDonald said those who want to support their campaign to have tolls put in to twin the highway can visit www.twinhighway104.com.

 

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