When governments truly want to do something, they do it. When they don’t, they delay.
Discussion about twinning Highway 104 between Sutherlands River and Antigonish is a case in point.
Members of the Liberal McNeil government saw the calendar and did two things with the subject of twinning the highway. They accepted informally the 15,000 or so signatures received on paper or electronically that were rejected in the legislature when attempts were made to have either the government or the opposition present them formally.
Joe MacDonald, the intrepid fire chief on the department in Barney’s River who has led the twinning talk for several years, was not entirely pleased with the government’s initial response, or that of the legislature. He’s at least satisfied that the government saw 15,000 signatures as a matter not to be ignored.
That still leaves the matter of consultations regarding the twinning to early next year, time having run out this year, according to Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Geoff MacLellan.
To quote the late realist painter Alex Colville: “Time lost is lost forever.”
Every time this issue gets moved back, the twinning project is delayed. The last portion of twinning that opened recently east of Antigonish is a case in point. It opened on October 22 after what Antigonish MLA and Finance Minister Randy Delorey called 20 years of planning, design and construction.
It amounts to barely 14 kilometres of twinned highway around the town. It is also a stark reminder of how long any more twinning of Highway 104 will take. So what is a few weeks’ delay from late fall to the new year against the backdrop of two decades? Plenty, says MacDonald, for those who answer the call to clean up more highway carnage in their area.
The cost of the project was $159 million. The federal portion of $55 million came from the Building Canada Fund, with the province contributing the remaining $104 million.
Where will the province find the money for this twinning project and ones it has listed as higher priorities than Highway 104? That’s one reason for the delay.
What we don’t know about twinning Highway 104 east of Sutherlands River is a lot. Much of it will be completely new four-lane highway, rather a two-lane section beside the existing one. Such is the challenge facing governments and citizen groups regarding projects like this to do what the government claims – to improve safety, ease congestion and cut travel time for drivers.
Nothing has changed. Running parallel with considering a future four-lane stretch of highway is the need to drive carefully on the existing road today.