By Andrew Macdonald

Transportation Minister Lloyd Hines has named engineering civil servant Jamie Chisholm to oversee the planned seven-year twinning of 100-Series highways 103,101 and 104.

Chisholm, a 16-year veteran with the province, is now director of major projects and construction. He will report to top engineer Peter Hackett.

Chisholm is based at the Transportation depot at Miller Lake. He was stationed for a number of years at the department’s Antigonish office, and is a native of Guysborough, the same village where Hines is local MLA, and where he resides in the shire town.

Speaking at the 71st annual general meeting of the Nova Scotia Road Builders Association at the Westin Nova Scotia Hotel, Chisholm said the transportation department will soon begin advertising for new engineers because of the onslaught of extra department work.

He is unsure how many more engineers will be hired, adding the twinning program means more work for the department, which already has a robust capital program for existing regular department spending.

The twinning program has a projected cost of $850 million, and federal minister Scott Brison has committed funds from Ottawa recently for work on highways 103 and 101.

Planning is more advanced on the 103, on the province’s South Shore, where a tree clearing contract will be awarded within weeks, and roadwork could see shovels in the ground as early as this summer.

The McNeil government says it will twin from Upper Tantallon to Hubbards, although the tree clearing contract will first be done between Tantallon and the Ingramport interchange.

And Hwy. 103 could see heavy equipment this summer, building the first section to the interchange at Ingramport, a project that will take at least two years to twin, Chisholm tells The Macdonald Notebook.

Also this year, work is expected to begin on overpass and bridge construction on Hwy. 103 — four structures in total.

That includes a bridge at Mill Lake, an underpass at Bowater Mercy Road, a bridge at Little Indian Lake, and another bridge at Ingram River Bridge, Chisholm tells The Macdonald Notebook.

“We’ll start with the tree clearing (in February), and later on in early summer, you’ll probably see some work on the structures and road sub-grade work,” Chisholm says.

On the structures, the department is weighting options of splitting them up as individual tenders or calling the whole job as one.

“We’ll have a better idea on that in another month. I suspect you’ll see two or three structures and road sub-grade (as one tender call),” says Chisholm.

The road sub-grade will “certainly get started” in the summer of 2018 “and a job of that size will take a couple of years to get to the point they are ready for paving,” he adds.

“The 101 and the 103 are the two projects that we’ve done the most work on over the past number of years, so we are farther ahead than work on the 104.” Shovels are expected to be on the ground on the 101 in 2018.

“That’s what we’re expecting,” he tells The Macdonald Notebook.

“We hope to call a tree cutting tender soon on the 101, where the road is being twinned for nine kilometres between Three Mile Plains and Falmouth, around Exit 5 to the west of Exit 7.”

There are five structures on Hwy. 101 to be built, including keeping the causeway (at Windsor) on the 101 in place, and the plan is to widen it and replace the structure to allow water to flow freely.

As for Hwy. 104, a tree cutting contract has not been given a time line.

“The 104 is probably the project we’re furthest behind in terms of being ready. You won’t likely see a tree cutting contract there for another year,” while heavy machinery could be dispatched to the 104 in late 2019 or early in 2020, says Chisholm.

The transportation department said the “likely option” is to bypass Barney’s River and Marshy Hope and build the twinned highway over the mountain, because a river is on one side at Barney’s River, and a rail bed is on the other side of the existing two lane highway.