NOVA SCOTIA Cobequid Pass Toll-104 opens
By Peter Samuel
Cobequid Pass Toll-104 opens
Nova Scotias first toll road (see also TRnl#4 Jun 96 p3) opened for traffic Nov 15 and began tolling at the end of the month. The 45km long 2x2-lane pike between Masstown and Thomson Station completes a motorway standard network of roads between the major port of Halifax Nova Scotia, and the New Brunswick cities of Moncton and Saint John, about 430km in total. Toll-based bonds were used because the government was unable to fund in a timely fashion this expensive last leg through the Cobequid mountain range in the center of the isthmus or neck of land that links the bulk of Nova Scotia to the main landmass of north America.
The 45km pike has 6 major bridges, 5 full interchanges, 12 large culverts. Traversing hilly country on a new direct alignment that shortens the route 9km construction involved movement of 5.2m cub m of earth, the blasting of 0.9m cub m of rock and used 350k t of asphalt pavement. The 2x2-lane roadway has a 22.6m central median. It is notable for a number of wildlife underpasses with median skylights designed to reduce the number of animals that cross the road at grade and cause accidents. Construction was completed by a subsidiary of Canadian Highways in just under 20 months, 2 weeks ahead of schedule at a cost of $80m. The road was financed by Highway 104 Western Alignment Corporation, a company created and owned by the province of NS, but because of the provinces debt situation the company financed nearly 2/3 of the cost of the road with non-recourse bonds sales of c$50m, plus matching federal and provincial grants. Bond purchasers assume the risk of default if the toll revenue does not support debt service.
15min+ time saving: The road offers an estimated 15 to 20 minute time saving for cars and a more relaxed safer drive through scenic hills. The posted speed limit is 110km/hr (67mph), compared to 100km/hr (61mph) on the Wentworth road.
A high accident rate on the pre-existing 54km 2-lane roadway through Wentworth was a major spur to the construction of the Cobequid Pass pike 50 deaths in the past decade, attributed to the mix of heavy trucks, tourists and local traffic. It is illegal for heavy trucks to use the old Wentworth road for through trips now that the pike is open. Traffic on the new highway was 7k vehs/day during the free period late Nov. Projections have been for a light 6k vehs/day year-round average though summer traffic in tourist season is much higher. Heavy trucks are expected to be close to 2k/day virtually the yar round.
There is a barrier toll plaza about midway along the facility with attendants but the use of e-tags (brandnamed E-PASS) is being encouraged with a 50% e-tag discount on the toll rate normally C$3 ($2.20) for cars and C$2 ($1.45)/axle for cars. The e-tags are from Amtech and are similar to the basic backscatter tags coming into use elsewhere in the Maritime provinces, namely on the two toll bridges in Halifax and on the harbor bridge in Saint John NB (see TRnl#11 Jan 97 p8) , so arrangements are possible for interoperability the use of tags from any one authority at the others facilities. The toll operations are being run on contract by Atlantic Highways Management Corp a sub of CHIC.
The maritime provinces longest toll project, a 140km toll road between Moncton and Fredericton in New Brunswick is in the final stage of selecting a concessionaire. That will leave links to and through Maine (see pXX) to complete high standard connections for the maritimes to Montreal, Toronto and the US. (Contact Susan McLeod H-104WAC 902 424 2248)