$718 million contract awarded for twinning of Nova Scotia’s Highway 104

Highway 104, the artery connecting mainland Nova Scotia to Cape Breton Island is seen on Tuesday, May 24, 2016. The environmental assessment of a plan to twin a deadly 38-kilometre stretch of Nova Scotia's Highway 104 has been approved by the province's environment minister. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan.

Nova Scotia announced on Thursday it has awarded the public-private partnership contract for the Highway 104 twinning project.

Dexter Nova Alliance outbid two other companies for the $717.9 million contract.

Stretching from Sutherland’s River, N.S., to just outside of Antigonish, N.S., the 38-kilometre length of highway will include a two-lane twinned highway and 10 km of new four-lane twinned highway.

READ MORE: N.S. Highway 104 twinning project gets environmental approval from province

Dexter Nova Alliance (DNA) will also be upgrading existing sections of the highway.

The cost of the public-private partnership (P3) includes all expenses of the highway for the next 23 years.

It includes $364.3 million for construction and structures, and $196.4 million for maintenance, rehabilitation and financing.

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“It’s a certainty – that is what it’s going to cost us for that period of time,” said Diane Saurette, Nova Scotia’s executive director of finance in the Department of Transportation at Thursday’s briefing.

Saurette said $90 million of the construction cost will come from Transport Canada.

She said the department was lucky to be able to leverage extra federal funds, outside of its usual allocation.

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DNA was chosen as the preferred bidder back in January based on overall cost and has already started to prepare for the job.

The twinning project was initiated in 2015 when the department was approached by several community members about wanting more twinned highways.

Since 2009, Highway 104 has seen 391 collisions in which 19 people were killed.

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For chief engineer Peter Hackett, improved safety was an important component of the project.

Another was economical: the Trans-Canada Highway that runs through the area.

READ MORE: Moncton man dies after being struck by pickup truck on N.S. Highway 104

After conducting a study in 2016 on twinning the whole province and using tolls, the department decided that it wasn’t feasible.

Instead, they decided to do several segments of the original study.

The project for Highway 104 is by far the biggest one, according to Hackett.

Diane Saurette said the partnership with DNA financially closed yesterday.

The department is working on releasing DNA’s request for proposal, project agreement and value for money at some point in the near future.

Nova Scotia says activity at the site is expected to start in mid-June and conclude no later than the end of 2023.

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