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Trudeau announces funding to twin highway from Sutherland's River to Antigonish

Justin Trudeau speaks during a funding announcement at the East Pictou Middle School on Tuesday. The federal government will contribute $90 million towards twinning a section of the 104 between Sutherland's River and Antigonish.
Justin Trudeau speaks during a funding announcement at the East Pictou Middle School on Tuesday. The federal government will contribute $90 million towards twinning a section of the 104 between Sutherland's River and Antigonish. - Adam MacInnis

SUTHERLAND'S RIVER, N.S. The deadly section of undivided highway between Sutherland’s River and Antigonish will be twinned sooner than initially projected.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau joined Premier Stephen McNeil at the East Pictou Middle School in Pictou County to make the announcement Tuesday, July 17.

Trudeau announced that the federal government is contributing $90 million to the $195 million project, which will see 38 kilometres twinned between Sutherland's River, Pictou Co. and Antigonish.

“Not only will this project alleviate the bottle neck and get more vehicles moving, but most importantly it will reduce the risk of fatalities along this highway by 80 per cent .”

Shovels are expected to be in the ground by next summer with construction anticipated to begin in early 2020 with the goal to have that portion of Highway 104 twinned by 2024.

Trudeau took time to specifically mention Barney’s River Fire Chief Joe MacDonald who has led the charge to have the highway twinned.

“Thank you for your dedication,” Trudeau told him. “You can and should be proud.”

MacDonald said it was an accident on Feb. 5, 2014 which marked the turning point for him. After that accident he began a campaign of writing to politicians and organizing a petition to have the highway twinned. He spoke publically and often about the horrors of responding to the head-on collisions in the years that followed.

McNeil also took time to commend his efforts.

“It takes a lot to stand up and allow your raw emotions to be seen by every member of your province and your country,” he said.

Those efforts were a large part of the reason the government was in Pictou County to announce the funding.

“He put a human face to the tragedies that have happened on this highway and given a voice to those who have lost their lives on this highway.”

McNeil said the project will be constructed with a public private sector model. He said there are some opponents to this approach, but said “It was straight and simple for us. It was about saving lives.”

The project will include a new, 10 kilometre, four-lane alignment between Barneys River and James River, south of the existing Highway 104, made necessary by the area's topography and terrain as well as a river and rail line.

New Glasgow Fire Chief Doug Dort said his department has responded to assist the Barney’s River Fire Department on many of their calls and welcomed the news of the twinning project.

READ MORE ABOUT THE PRIME MINISTER'S VISIT

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