Two-lane 100-series highways in Nova Scotia have become hazardous to one’s health.
That is why there is a growing clamour to twin more of them, through the growing list of fatalities and the horrible trauma besetting those who witness them. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is real, and is it not reserved to war zones. Just ask any first responder.
The McNeil Liberal government has produced the first phase of an independent study conducted to prioritize eight sections of 100-series highways to be built or twinned at an estimated cost of $2 billion. Tolls are among the options being offered to pay for them.
Highway 104 is one of the sections listed. It is ranked third behind sections of Highway 103 along the South Shore and 101 in the Annapolis Valley. All three have become dangerous transportation routes and all three merit attention.
None of them will get twinned tomorrow. Top roads on the list will take years to design, tender and build under the current model. The rest will take decades.
It doesn’t much matter how we got to this point. Roads have trumped trains to move both passengers and freight. Lobbying and the obsession of just-in-time delivery of goods have paved more roads than one could ever imagine 50 years ago.
If this government or a succeeding one agrees to twin the section of Highway 104 between Sutherlands River and Antigonish, it will need to decide whether to take more time with a conventional project or speed it up by allowing tolls to pay for the stretch’s construction and future maintenance.
Even then, steps will be required to reduce the carnage. They may be minimal or extreme. Some have already been shared.
Here are some of them: Reduce the speed limit from Exit 27 to Sutherlands River from 110 to 100 kilometres per hour. That would make the limit consistent from Exit 25. Too many drivers are not adjusting their speeds accordingly.
The options become more stringent from there – such as reducing the speed limit to 90 km/h through Marshy Hope. But that would create problems at the far end and require reducing the speed limit to 90 km/h between Sutherlands River and Antigonish, or applying a solid double line all the way, or installing centerline barriers – or all three. It may not eliminate crashes, only limit the physical impact.
Driver error and excessive speed – each on its own or combined – is rampant. It is remarkable that more crashes and fatalities have not occurred.
All this is a way for us at The Advocate to let our readers know that we’re concerned about this, too. That is why readers will see reminders in the coming editions of our newspaper encouraging motorists and others to offer their suggestions to make driving this section road safer. Please join us as we try this way to make things better.