A map showing the Aerotech Connector. (Submitted photo)

Delay in approval to push back Aerotech

Connector completion to late 2022

WELLINGTON: The delay in the Environmental Assessment (EA) approval for the Aerotech Connector will mean the estimated completion date for the project will be delayed by a few months.

Earlier this week, the provincial Environment department announced quietly that the Highway 102/Aerotech Connector in Wellington had its Environmental Assessment approved, with conditions.

The approval can be found here: https://novascotia.ca/nse/ea/Highway.102.Aerotech.Connector.Road.Project/

On March 2, 2017, Sackville-Preston-Chezzetcook Liberal MP Darrell Samson, along with Waverley-Fall River-Beaver Bank Liberal MLA Bill Horne, announced the two governments have partnered to fund the construction of the five-kilometre stretch of road. The price tag for the project is $21 million, with the feds providing $10 million and the province chipping in $11.2 million.

The Connector is designed as a four-lane road but will be built with two main travel lanes with an additional climbing lane in some road segments, an active transportation trail offset from the road. There will also be access to each parcel of land between Highway 102 and the old Holland Road (total of three intersections), roundabouts at the ramp terminal at Exit 5A Aerotech exit, and at the intersection with Highway 2 near Sunylea.

Environment Minister Gordon Wilson said he knows how important the Connector is to the communities in the Fall River area.

He spoke to The Laker News on Cabinet day on Jan. 7 about the length of time the EA took into the project.

“That’s the beauty of the Environmental Assessment process, it gives the opportunity to have the extra eyes on it,” said Wilson. “Our staff saw some things that we needed more clarification, more information on. That was the only thing that held it up.”

Among those concerns were the Sulphide Bearing rock and some of the [potential for contamination of the wells.

“We just wanted to make sure that everything was suitable, and everybody was protected,” he said. “We asked for more information from TIR, received it which was suitable. That’s the only reason for the delay.”

Wilson explained the process a bit in making the decision to approve once all the information was gathered.

“Every application that we have is different, so our staff go through a whole series of check lists,” said Wilson. “This one here, we had some information that showed the geology of the route that was being proposed did have some Sulphide Bearing rock in it, combined with hat there was a close proximity to some wells and watercourses.

“Those in combination, the topography of the land, showed we needed more information from the department to ensure there wasn’t going to be any leeching and that Sulphide bearing material wasn’t going to be contaminating.”

Wilson said there was a bit of back and forth with information and questions between TIR and NSE staff.

“Those questions were asked from NSE to TIR, and they would answer them to our satisfaction and so we approved the project,” he said.

He said he knows residents are eager to see the project gets going.

“It’s a great project for the community out there,” said Wilson. “I know there’s some real concern with the bottleneck in traffic there.”

TIR Minister Lloyd Hines said his department is reviewing the terms and conditions in the NSE approval to ensure they can comply with them all.

“It is our expectation we will have tenders out in the spring for the sub-grade work for the Connector road and the paving will be completed in 2022,” said Hines during a question asked by The Laker News during Cabinet Outs.

In previous stories, an early Fall 2022 opening for the Aerotech Connector had been estimated by TIR. With the EA delay, that has been pushed back.

“As part of the process with building roads, like any other projects,” Hines said. “We were asked to revise our plans, which essentially held us a back a full season for construction.

“We’re expecting this to be in place and done by late 2022.”

He also said the area will benefit from the Connector.

“It will really benefit the connectivity of the highway network in that area.”