Transporation minister given an earful at meeting
WENTWORTH - While the province says it will maintain bike lanes on both sides of the highway through the Wentworth Valley, area residents don't feel narrower means safer.
Transportation Minister Bill Estabrooks was given an earful by close to 100 people who crowded into the community's recreation centre last night to express concerns with the province's plan to reduce the width of the highway from 12.4 metres to nine metres.
"I'm very concerned with what's going to happen this winter when the Cobequid Pass closes and traffic is sent down through here. You have to live here to know what the situation is when that highway is closed and the traffic is sent through the valley," Sandra Mayne said during the meeting.
"We're busy enough even when the Pass is not closed. We're going to have some major problems here this winter with the lanes being narrowed and the shoulders being narrowed."
The province just completed the first year of a multi-year paving project that will see the road repaved from Mahoney's Corner over Folly Mountain. It's the first major work on the highway since the Cobequid Pass opened in 1997.
Bill Talbot, the department's northern zone director, said the highway is being built above the standards of normal trunk highways because the department realizes the road will be used as an alternate route when the 44-kilometre toll highway is closed. He also said highways are no longer built as wide as they were before.
Still, Connor Scallion said a narrower road is going to lead to more accidents.
"It would be fair to say I use the shoulder of this road quite a bit whether on my bike or on my tractor, and I certainly feel I need a wider shoulder," he said. "I've been there with salt trucks going by and there's not a lot of room."
Colchester County Mayor Bob Taylor is concerned the highway could resemble secondary roads in his county.
"It's a safety issue no matter how you look at it because you have quite a few trucks hauling salt and aggregate from the quarry," he said.
"I know on Highway 2 to Parrsboro and Highway 311 to Tatamagouche, trucks are practically clipping mirrors because there isn't enough room."
Joanne Craib of the North Nova Forest Owners Co-operative Ltd., can't understand how the province would narrow the width of the road considering the amount of truck traffic using it.
"It is a safety issue. You say you're building it narrower doesn't mean you're building it safer," she said.
Daisy Roberts, who operates Hub Cycle in Truro, said bicyclists won't use the highway because they won't feel safe.
"It's nice to hear they're going to have a bike lane, but I'm concerned that it's going to be narrower than what's there now," Roberts said.
"I've seen a lot of injuries like broken arms and collarbones from people trying to get off the gravel, back over that ledge and back onto the paved shoulder."
The minister, who attended the meeting at the request of Cumberland South MLA Murray Scott, promised to review the information presented but would not make any promises to restore the highway to its original width.
"The important thing I learned is the personal situation with the truckers and the bicyclists. There are some things we'll have to review next spring to see how it has held up," Estabrooks said.
"This is a special section of road that's parallel to the most notorious stretch of highway and it's an important piece of highway for getting people around. I learned some things tonight I didn't know."