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Amherst chamber asking how tolls have affected business

Cobequid Pass toll plaza
Cobequid Pass toll plaza

AMHERST, N.S. – The Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce wants the province to know just how the imposition of tolls 20 years ago is impacting business.

The chamber is asking its membership to provide information on the financial impact of tolls on the Cobequid Pass as its leadership goes into a meeting Friday with Cumberland North MLA Terry Farrell.

The chamber is asking its membership to provide information on the financial impact of tolls on the Cobequid Pass as its leadership goes into a meeting Friday with Cumberland North MLA Terry Farrell.

“We want to be able to show him just how much the toll has impacted business on this side of the toll in hopes he will take that information to Halifax,” chamber vice-president Jessica Poirier said. “It would be too much to expect that the government will get rid of the toll before 2026, but we can always hope.”

Farrell asked the chamber several weeks ago if it would be willing to meet with him after the organization expressed its disappointment with the realization that motorists could continue paying a toll to use the 45-km highway between Thomson Station in Cumberland County and Glenholme in Colchester for another eight years.

In November, Cumberland South MLA and PC leader Jamie Baillie accused the provincial government of being sneaky. He said that because of higher revenues the toll could have been paid off as early as 2018, but send the decision to end pre-payments means motorists will pay the toll until 2026 – the original length of the 30-year deal between the government and the corporation that built the road that replaced a dangerous stretch of highway through the Wentworth Valley.

Even though Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan said Baillie was not correct, it still reopened old wounds on the Cumberland County side of the Cobequid Pass.

Poirier said the toll is impacting businesses in Cumberland County. She said a chamber member told her his businesses has to go through the expense of going across the toll to pick up supplies further in Nova Scotia.

She said a forestry company has told the chamber it’s more expensive to harvest timber in Cumberland County and ship it into the province.

“It’s something that’s added to the cost of doing business in this part of Nova Scotia,” she said.

Poirier said while it may not be realistic to expect the toll to be removed anytime soon, the chamber hopes it will help the discussion in other parts of the province where tolls may be put in place to fund highway twinning projects.

On Wednesday the province announced a series of consultations on how highways can be twinned using tolls. The meetings will run from Jan. 24 in New Glasgow until March 1 in Dartmouth.

A report by CBCL studied the feasibility of twinning eight sections of highway on Highway 101 in the Annapolis Valley, Highway 103 between Tantallon and Bridgewater, Highway 104 in northern Nova Scotia and Highway 107 near Porters Lake.

darrell.cole@tc.tc

Twitter: @ADNdarrell

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