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Tories will take tolls from Cobequid Pass when highway paid for

Cobequid Pass toll plaza
Cobequid Pass toll plaza

AMHERST, N.S. – A PC government will remove tolls for all users of the Cobequid Pass the moment the highway is paid for, says party leader Jamie Baillie.

“Why would we continue to ask people to pay for tolls when the highway is paid for?” Baillie said.
While Baillie’s pledge is similar to a recent promise by Liberal Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan, that tolls could come off as early as 2019 when the bond is paid on the 44-kilometre highway, the Progressive Conservative leader said that has been his party’s stance all along.
“The Liberals have shown that they can’t be trusted with toll money,” Baillie said. “When I first called on them to remove the tolls when the highway was paid off they told me it could not be done and that I was wrong. On the eve of an election they suddenly saw the light.”
When the highway was originally financed in 1996, the province entered into a 30-year agreement with bond holders that would see tolls paid by motorists through 2026. Several years later, a PC government recognized that revenues were higher but instead of lowering the toll opted to maintain them with the understanding the highway would be paid off sooner.
Several months ago, Baillie accused the Liberal government of punishing Cumberland County users by pushing the bond payment date back out to 2026, although the minister said the tolls would be removed if the highway were paid off earlier.
In announcing tolls would be removed by 2019, MacLellan said the province is considering maintaining tolls for non-Nova Scotian vehicles and possibly the trucking industry. He said this would be explored to raise revenue to maintain the highway, but also to protect the jobs that could be impacted by changes to the Cobequid Pass.
“Trucks are our economy, trucks represent a lot of jobs. Why would you continue collecting the toll if the debt is paid off?” he said. “To me that’s a tax grab. The road’s paid for, everyone should be able to travel without the toll.”
Baillie said earlier Friday that his government would spend $729 million over seven years to twin sections of Highway 101, Highway 103, Highway 104 and build a four-lane, divided Burnside Connector (Highway 107).
He also committed to investing another $30 million in safety measures on untwined sections of highway.
Baillie plans to accomplish this through a Rebuild Nova Scotia Fund that will invest $2 billion in roads, bridges and public infrastructure over 10 years.
Twitter: @ADNdarrell

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