Highway twinning at last

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SUTHERLAND’S RIVER — A long-sought twinning of Highway 104 from Sutherland’s River to Antigonish will become a reality.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday $90 million in federal funding toward the estimated $195 cost to extend the highway’s four lanes the 38 kilometres between Sutherland’s River and Antigonish.

Design work will start next week, and the completion date is 2024.

“Twinning and upgrading Highway 104 is about improving road safety, creating good, middle class jobs and making it easier for people — and products — to move across the province and the country,” Trudeau said.

Both Trudeau and Premier Stephen McNeil said the work is about improving the economy, but both said the most crucial priority is safety.

“Nova Scotians want us to improve the safety of our roads and we are committed to doing just that,” McNeil said.

“Highway 104 is an essential piece of infrastructure connecting communities in our province and our province to the rest of the country.”

Trudeau and McNeil also paid tribute to Joe MacDonald, chief of the Barney’s River Fire Department, who led the cause to get the highway twinned. MacDonald joined them for the announcement.

“Joe is here today because he’s been the face of this project,” Trudeau lauded.

“I look forward to a safer drive from Sutherland’s River to Antigonish,” MacDonald said to a standing ovation. He noted the 414 collisions and 16 deaths that have occurred since 2009 on the stretch of highway being twinned.

McNeil said the project will incorporate a P-3 model and received applause when he stressed that the highway will not be tolled.

He also thanked MacDonald and other fire fighters seated in the front row for their commitment to the community.

Central Nova MP Sean Fraser emceed the gathering and recalled his years living near the highway when it was two lanes.

“To see this (twinning) coming just five minutes from where I grew up is pretty neat,” he said. “We’re providing an asset the community desperately needs.”

Both Warden Robert Parker and Don Butler, who represents the district on Pictou County Municipal Council, praised the news.

“I think this is the best news we’ve had in a long time, especially with the premier emphasizing safety,” Parker said. “There are people whose lives will be saved and we don’t know who they are.”

Butler noted how motorists can drive from Vancouver across Canada on a four-lane highway that becomes two lanes at Sutherland’s River.

“The amount of traffic has increased over these years,” he said.

Of the new four-lane, 38-kilometre section, a 10-kilometre section between Barney’s River and Marshy Hope will be entirely new highway south of the existing two-lane road, a river and a railway. Two-lane sections will be built beside the existing road.

From left: Central Nova MP Sean Fraser stands beside the map showing the extended twinning of Highway 104 with Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister and Guysborough MLA Lloyd Hines and Health Minister and Antigonish MLA Randy Delorey. (Goodwin photo)