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Toll revival proposed

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. -- Motorists might have to scrounge for tokens before proceeding over the Canso Causeway if t...

PORT HAWKESBURY, N.S. — Motorists might have to scrounge for tokens before proceeding over the Canso Causeway if the mayor of Port Hawkesbury gets his way.

At a meeting Tuesday of mayors and wardens from Cape Breton and Northeastern Nova Scotia, Billy Joe MacLean proposed calling for the causeway toll to be reintroduced, with the revenue generated paying for construction of a twinned highway between New Glasgow and Sydney. The route would continue through St. Peter’s, south from Route 4 to Sydney.

The causeway toll was eliminated close to a decade ago.

MacLean says that even he was surprised with the unanimous support the idea garnered.

“I was really amazed,” he says. “I felt the importance of a better highway going to Sydney for the economic viability of Cape Breton was paramount. The government is saying it’s broke, so how can we expedite it? Go to private enterprise to build this highway, or do it themselves and have the toll look after the debt over the next 20 years.”

His suggestion was prompted by a recent discussion with Department of Transportation officials who indicated a project to twin the highway between New Glasgow and Cape Breton is more than a decade away.

“Surely if the government knows that every municipal leader from Cape Breton Island and eastern Nova Scotia supports it, they’ll give it serious consideration,” says Cape Breton Mayor John Morgan.

“I think there would be some negative reaction, as there is with everything,” MacLean says. “We’ve gotten elected to make decisions that are best for the community and best for the area, and they may not be entirely popular with everybody.”

Having a strong road link between Sydney and the mainland is increasingly important with the uncertainty facing the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway, says MacLean, both to encourage new industry and to enable existing products reach markets.

The twinned highway would also be safer and offer an alternative route to Highway 105. MacLean called the stretch of that road near Glendale one of the most dangerous in the province.

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