After public consultations in key areas across the province, the Nova Scotia government has committed an additional $390 million to fund highway improvements including twinning on 100-series highways without the use of tolls.
The capital funding will see four additional projects completed within the next seven years. Highway 103, which runs along the South Shore, will receive twinning but only the 22 kilometres between Tantallon and Hubbards (exits 5 and 6).
"We did not hear overwhelming support from Nova Scotians about paying a toll for twinned highways, but they were clear we should act now to improve our roads," said Geoff MacLellan, minister of transportation and infrastructure renewal, in a press release on April 26.
Despite the lack of highway improvements in Lunenburg County, Carolyn Bolivar-Getson, mayor of the Municipality of Lunenburg (MODL), says it's a start.
"It's a great first step, not having tolls I think is a step in the right direction. I think it does place us at a disadvantage from a business perspective to have tolls and not anywhere else," she said.
Bolivar-Getson reiterated her stance that while twinning would improve safety, tolling newer portions of highway is unfair.
"If we're going to go with tolls, there should be tolls on all twinned highways, not only those on the South Shore and those that were left to the end to get twinned," she said.
"This is still very good news, 22 kilometres," she added. "This is still a very dangerous stretch of highway."
Between 2010 and 2014 there were an average of 69 collisions on Highway 103 from Tantallon to Bridgewater, according to a feasibility study by CBCL Ltd.
The funding announcement notes that $30 million will be spent on safety improvements on un-twinned sections of highway. "Those measures could include interchange improvements, passing lanes and turning lanes," reads the release.
Bruce Fitzner, the province's executive director of infrastructure programs, says that money could be spent on any non-twinned 100-series highway. Fitzner said Highway 103 will see intersection improvements at Exit 26 near Shelburne this year as a result of the funding,
"For the remainder of that money, we haven't really sorted out what all the projects will be yet. There could be further improvements down that way in intersections and that type of thing," said Fitzner.
The province's latest contribution will be used to access federal money through cost-shared infrastructure programs. That's something that gives David Dagley hope that construction will move further down the line.
"I'm hopeful that additional money from Ottawa will allow them to twin further down the South Shore to support and assist residents that live in this area," said Dagley, mayor of the Region of Queens Municipality. "One never knows where the funding will come or when it will come and the provincial government will determine where it occurs."
"It would be nice to have it as far as Liverpool," he added.
But Fitzner says the province wants to see a volume of at least 10,000 cars before a section of highway is twinned. A tolled twinned highway spanning from Tantallon to Bridgewater was looked at because of public requests for improvements, he said.
Now that the province has moved away from tolls, he says improvements outside of twinning will continue to be looked at unless the highway sees greater volumes in some of the areas.
"When we typically twin highways is when the traffic volume reaches around 10,000 vehicles a day and so once you get past Hubbards, it drops. It's not near 10,000 yet," he said. "We'll continue to plan and watch if there's growth and traffic growth down that way ... if traffic starts to get busier we starting putting in places to twin it."
Nearly 2,000 Nova Scotians took part in 14 public sessions between January and March. Two of those sessions took place in Lunenburg County in February. The overwhelming response from those meetings was that the public doesn't want tolling on Highway 103, though most were in agreement that improvements needed to be made to make the highway safer. Suggestions ranged from barriers to twinning to more policing.
Feedback was also received from close to 5,400 people through online submissions.