WINDSOR, N.S. – Representatives from the provincial and federal government announced new joint funding for the Highway 101 Three Mile Plains to Falmouth twinning project of up to $69 million in Windsor on Jan. 15.
The governments of Canada and Nova Scotia are each contributing $34.5 million toward this project through the New Building Canada Fund’s Provincial Territorial Infrastructure Component – National Regional Projects program.
The province of Nova Scotia will handle the remaining funds necessary to pay for the project, which is estimated to total approximately $90 million.
The provincial government recently announced a major boost in infrastructure funding, to help pay for twinning projects like the one near Windsor.
The project involves twinning approximately 9.5 kilometres of highway between Exit 5, Three Mile Plains to west of Exit 7, between Falmouth and Hantsport.
Several structures including new on-ramps, bridges are included in that cost, which, when completed, would mean 70 total kilometres of twinned highway from Halifax to Hortonville in King’s County.
Causeway and Aboiteau aspect left out
What’s not included in the funding announced is the upgraded causeway and aboiteau, between the Avon River and Lake Pisiquid in Windsor, which is still in the design phase, officials said.
The funding for that phase of the project is expected at a later date.
MP for Kings-Hants and President of the Treasury Board Scott Brison said he was happy to make the announcement, saying it would enhance safety and create jobs for the region.
Brison also said that he’s aware of the environmental concerns surrounding the aboiteau aspect, especially in terms of fish passage.
“There was a full environmental assessment completed in 2017 and approval was provided by Environment Minister Ian Rankin, but the aboiteau project on the causeway is going to replaced on a separate project,” Brison said. “There will be conditions, including providing to the Department of Fisheries, a detailed design of the aboiteau structure to enable fish passage.”
Brison also said there would be a communications strategy to engage the Mi’kmaq population on the aboiteau project as well.
Multiple government departments at the provincial and federal level will be involved with the aboiteau project to ensure fish passage is handled appropriately, Brison said.
Justin Tanner acting manager for highway planning and design with the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said details on the aboiteau are coming later this year.
“Plans are currently underway, (the frequency of fish passage) is still to be determined,” Tanner said. “That process, with our consultant CBCL Limited will take place over the next six to 12 months. We’ll have further details as that develops.”
“But there is need for improved fish passage, we recognize that, as well as flood protection for the communities of Falmouth, Windsor and agricultural lands,” he said. “The bridge option is not being considered, the government has decided to go ahead with an upgraded aboiteau that will provide improved fish passage and the causeway will be expanded to allow for resiliency to climate change and sea level rise in the future as well.”
Lloyd Hines, Nova Scotia Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal said he hasn’t seen any details of the updated causeway and aboiteau, but said he understands that it’s an important piece of the process.
“Our commitment is to provide a safe passage through the area, but we’re not going to sacrifice any environmental integrity that goes along with that,” Hines said. “We’re going to get this done, there’s no doubt about that.”
Hines said the department has dedicated people on staff to make sure the twinning project comes online on schedule and on budget.
The project is slated for completion in 2022.
Safety is key
Hants West MLA Chuck Porter said he’s been lobbying the government to improve safety along Highway 101 for approximately 12 years, adding that he’s happy to see construction finally begin.
“It takes a lot of money to get a major project like this done,” Porter said. “I’m pleased to be partnering with the federal government on this and to get this thing going.”
Porter, who was a paramedic before entering politics, said the safety of commuters on Highway 101 has been his top priority.
There’s no word yet on how construction of the project could impact traffic flow as it ramps up, but Porter said he doesn’t anticipate major delays.
“That’s part of working on any road, secondary or highways, will there be some pain to the driving public? Some delays? When we’ve done previous sections, usually there isn’t much of an impact but as you start tying things together there may be some traffic stoppages,” he said. “I think early stages there shouldn’t be too much in terms of delays.”
MP weighs in on arena
During his remarks MP Brison also said he remains hopeful that Windsor and West Hants councils can bring a proposal to the federal government for a new or refurbished arena in the coming months.
“If the government of Canada receives a viable plan to build or refurbish a rink in Windsor, it will be considered for the same one-third in federal funding that applies to all recreational infrastructure applications,” Brison said. “As a member of parliament, I will be supportive of a project when one is brought forward that the municipalities agree on.”
“As a citizen I really hope that West Hants and Windsor work together to bring forward a viable proposal,” he added. “I’m hopeful.”
Brison said that the federal government is unable commit to funding in any way until a concrete proposal comes forward.
“I’ve been able to fund other recreational infrastructure in this riding working with municipalities and I’d like to be able to work with these ones,” he added, referencing the East Hants Aquatic Centre in Elmsdale.