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Tree decorations in Barneys River a sombre reminder about pledge to twin Hwy 104

Barneys River Fire Chief Joe MacDonald places a gold Christmas ball on top of a tree decorated in front of the fire department. The red balls on the tree represent the 15 lives lost on the dangerous stretch of highway since 2009 while the gold ball is a reminder of the provincial government’s promise to twin the Sutherlands River stretch.
Barneys River Fire Chief Joe MacDonald places a gold Christmas ball on top of a tree decorated in front of the fire department. The red balls on the tree represent the 15 lives lost on the dangerous stretch of highway since 2009 while the gold ball is a reminder of the provincial government’s promise to twin the Sutherlands River stretch. - Sueann Musick

This is one tree that Tammy MacLaren hopes will never need more decorations.

The New Glasgow woman has decorated a small evergreen in front of the Barneys River Fire Department for the past three years in memory of people who lost lives in motor vehicles collisions along the stretch of highway in Sutherlands River.

“Last year we had to add another bulb,” she said. “Thankfully, this year we didn't.”

MacLaren is a member of the Twin Highway 104 committee that has petitioned the provincial government to upgrade the Trans-Canada.

The committee, which includes fire department and community members, was pleased to hear the provincial government commitment to twinning the stretch of highway – announced before the past provincial election – but it is not letting it forget that the promise was made.

“As you travel on the Trans-Canada Highway between Sutherlands River and Antigonish you will pass the Barney River Fire Station,” MacLaren wrote in a note to The News on Friday. “Again, this year a small tree has been decorated with 15 red balls, each ball representing a fatality on this highway since 2009. We do this for a number of reasons, mainly it is to quietly remember those lives lost and the 15 families that are missing their loved ones more than ever this holiday season. We want them to know that we have not forgotten them nor their pain that they live with.

This year, she said, a gold Christmas ball was added to the top of the tree to remind the provincial government of its twinning commitment.

“Twinning saves lives. We hope, and pray, that no more lives are lost on this dangerous stretch. We also hope, and pray that the government quickly proceeds with their commitments they made to twin,” she said.

Since 2009 there have been 15 fatalities along this stretch of highway and close to 400 motor vehicle collisions.

The province announced Wednesday that it will invest $390 million over and above what it normally puts out for highway construction to build 78 kilometres of twinned highway in the province. It is a seven-year commitment from the province but it says sections of the highways will open as they are completed.

In addition to Sutherlands River, other areas to be twinned include Highway 101, Three Mile Plains to Falmouth, including the Windsor Causeway, 9.5 kilometres; Highway 103, Tantallon to Hubbards, 22 kilometres; and construction of the four-lane, divided Burnside Connector (Highway 107) between Burnside to Bedford, 8.7 kilometres.

A spokesman for Nova Scotia Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said Friday that work is currently being done in the design stage of the project.

Brian Taylor of TIR said environmental studies are also underway and geotechnical investigation is expected to start early in the new year. As this work progresses next year, TIR will have a better sense of the timing for the tenders.

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