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Tale of the tolls

['Terry Farrell']
['Terry Farrell']

To the Editor, As MLA for Cumberland North, I am disappointed the opposition is once again using the fears of area residents for perceived political gain by spreading misinformation about our government’s plan for tolls on the Cobequid Pass.

The Pass, which may never have been built if not for tolling, has saved many lives while ensuring the rapid and efficient movement of goods throughout our province and country.  

The Pass, which may never have been built if not for tolling, has saved many lives while ensuring the rapid and efficient movement of goods throughout our province and country.  

The fact is all money collected on the Cobequid Pass gets spent on the Cobequid Pass highway. The legislation is very clear – toll monies cannot be used for anything else.

At issue is the fact previous governments froze scheduled increases to the tolls. This created the need for taxpayers to subsidize toll revenue each year since 2005 to ensure bond payments have been covered.  There was no benefit to this, as the contract did not allow for any relief from interest payments. Effectively, previous governments decided to give the money to the bond holders early, yet those same bond holders were still entitled to interest.  This measure also resulted in a $23 million shortfall in the taxpayer-owned Highway 104 Corporation, which also fell on the backs of taxpayers.

Returning to the regular payment schedule allows the corporation to reinvest into the highway while maintaining the current toll rate. Our government continues to assess the short and long-term needs of the Pass, while actively considering options and timing for removing the tolls.

This stretch of road is a positive engine of development for our community.  To try and say it somehow restricts commercial activity is short-sighted and wrong.  When a truckload of goods travels the route and pays the toll, the benefit to the hauler and those expecting the safe delivery of a product far outweighs any negative effect of cost added to the product.  When we say it’s a barrier to trade for people in Cumberland County, we are ignoring the fact we are the only Nova Scotians with toll free access to the rest of North America.

Let's never forget that the Cobequid Pass replaced a route that was widely known as "Death Valley".  Keep in mind no one has died in a head-on collision since the construction of the Pass.

These are facts that occur to me regularly when I pay my toll.

Terry Farrell, MLA for Cumberland North

 

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