Hants County residents give Highway 101 toll proposal a solid ‘no thanks’


Published on February 3, 2017

Carole Ann Casey, from Windsor, said she was happy to have an opportunity to learn more about the proposal through the consultation process.

©Colin Chisholm

WINDSOR, N.S. — Few things get people more riled up than the roads they drive on, and that was true during a packed public consultation session in Windsor this month.

A panel of government officials and engineers hosted the meeting to discuss the twinning of Highway 101.

When asked, members of the public who were gathered on a snowy Feb. 1 gave a resounding ‘no’ to the idea of tolling the highway to pay for an expedited twinning project.

The public was asked to give feedback on the idea of using tolls to expedite the twinning of Highway 101. Their answer? Largely no.

©Colin Chisholm

Carole Ann Casey, from Windsor, said she was happy to have an opportunity to learn more about the proposal through the consultation process.
Colin Chisholm

Roughly half of the room raised their hands when asked if they thought twinning the highway was the best way to improve safety, but only a few raised their hands when asked if tolls should be used to speed up the project.

The public consultation meeting is part of a series of similar events happening across the province to gauge public interest in using tolls to quicken highway-twinning projects.

 

People have a say

Carole Anne Casey, from Windsor, said she came to the public consultation to learn more about the project and was happy she did.

“I don’t think the highway is that bad. I just came from Sackville. It’s the people speeding and passing you that are the problem,” she said. “It’s snowing, so I was going between 80 and 90 and people were still passing me, and I saw a truck off the road. So I think it’s our driving.”

Nova Scotia’s highway capital budget, which is money slated for highway improvements, is currently $400 million. In order to twin all of the identified portions of highway, the province would need $2.4 billion.

The public was asked to give feedback on the idea of using tolls to expedite the twinning of Highway 101. Their answer? Largely no.

©Colin Chisholm

Government representatives said they’ll get around to twinning all of the high-priority portions eventually, including the stretch near Windsor, but that will take decades to complete.

With that in mind, the idea of tolls to speed up the process has been floated around.

A member of the panel leading the public consultation said tolls could account for 50 per cent of the necessary revenue, with the remaining 50 per cent being covered by the province and the federal government.

 

Government wants public to choose

Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Geoff MacLellan said he’s been happy with the high turnout at the public consultation sessions.

Approximately 200 people came to the Windsor meeting.

“This really stems from the safety studies we conducted over the last year and a half, and they all point to, if we’re looking for large broad safety enhancements, it comes in the form of twinning,” MacLellan said. “With the limits on capital spending we have each year as a province, we’ve got to look at alternative options.”

Hants County residents listen in on a proposal to twin portions of Highway 101 in an expedited manner via toll roads.

©Colin Chisholm

MacLellan said they’d look at other ideas brought forward from the public to address safety concerns other than twinning.

“We’re looking for each and every shred of information we can get from Nova Scotians, so this isn’t about a yes or no, this is about getting information from people on what they think is the most beneficial way,” he said.

Hants West MLA Chuck Porter said his constituents have told him that tolling Highway 101 is a bad idea.

“The notion of tolling to expedite the twinning process is the people’s decision. We, as the government, have said that we are neutral on this,” Porter said, adding that he’d estimate 95 per cent of the people he’s talked to are not in favour of paying tolls.

Porter said he’s in favour of using alternate ways of improving highway safety before twinning can take place at a regular pace.

“Lets get some jersey barriers down, more lighting, signage,” he said. “The rumble strips have happened, we have had some electronic signage in parts and people are slowing down. Jersey barriers have worked well in Antigonish and the Bi-Hi in Sackville.”

Porter emphasized that the government is listening to what people want and won’t move ahead on toll roads without a clear indication from the public that they want this to happen.

Janice Munroe Dodge, PC candidate for Hants West, said she has concerns about the notion of tolling portions of Highway 101 as it could have a significant impact on low-income residents of West Hants.

“There are safety issues that need to be addressed along our un-twinned section of Highway 101 in West Hants and I’m just wondering if all of the avenues have been explored for options that both maximize safety and investment of infrastructure money,” Dodge said.

Dodge said she had a lot of questions regarding what tolling mechanism would be used, including how much it would cost and how long it would be in effect.

“Tolls could create an economic disadvantage to the people of West Hants, the commuter population,” she said. “People who have to go to the valley or to Halifax to work or for medical related reasons.”

 

Go online

For video from the question and answer portion of the meeting, check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/HantsJournal/

Members of the community were given a chance to provide feedback and ask questions during the public consultation meeting on Feb. 1.

©Colin Chisholm