Proposed Highway 101 Twinning
Environmentally Sustainable Alternatives

Larry Hughes and Vanessa Husain
Whale Lake Research Institute, P.O. Box 631, Station M
Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3J 2T3, Canada

Submitted to:
Department of Transportation and Public Works
Public Consultations on the
Proposed Highway 101 Twinning - Mount Uniacke (Exit 3) to Ellershouse) (Exit 4)

16 June 2000


The need for transportation between Halifax and the Valley has been an important element in the development of the province since the arrival of the first European settlers to Halifax in 1749. By the late 18th century, a military/post road connected Windsor with Halifax. It was gradually improved; however, by the mid 1830s, Haliburton was calling for the development of a railway to connect the Valley with Halifax [16]. Throughout the remainder of the 19th and well into the 20th centuries, the railway transported both goods and passengers, although the arrival of the automobile resulted in the gradual conversion of the original military/post road into Highway 1 [22]. Cheap oil and the inability of railways to offer competitive services saw the effective demise of the railway to the Valley, with CP Rail and Via Rail both withdrawing their services. To accommodate the growth in automobile travel, the province added a second, controlled access, single-lane highway (Highway 101) to the Valley, with periodic passing lanes. By the early 1990s, several sections of the Highway were converted to four-lane traffic or 'twinned'.

Over the past decade, there has been a concerted effort by a number of lobby groups to have all sections of Highway 101 twinned from Halifax to Yarmouth. The arguments presented by these groups usually focuses on the number of accidents on the entire highway; however, in recent months, it has become apparent that economic development is being put forward as another reason for twinning [4].

Originally, the proposed twinning was to take place between exits 3 (Mount Uniacke Interchange) and 14 (Coldbrook Interchange), a distance of about 75 kilometres, with a projected cost of $112 million [2]. However, with the province's finances in a precarious state, it was decided to twin the Highway in a piecemeal fashion, starting with section 40, a 21.03 kilometre stretch of single-lane roadway between exits 3 (Mount Uniacke Interchange) and 4 (St. Croix Interchange) [3].

This report is written in response to the provincial government's recent call for input on twinning section 40 of Highway 101. It presents background data on section 40 and shows that if safety is the issue, the money would be better spent on other sections of Highway 101. The report also proposes environmentally sustainable alternatives to twinning section 40, something that has been overlooked by the Department of Transportation and Public Works (TPW) and its minister, Ron Russell.


Traffic Volumes on Section 40

Traffic volumes on section 40 have increased dramatically over the past decade. Table 1 shows the traffic volume statistics gathered by the Department of Transportation and Public Works for section 40, both Valley-bound and Halifax-bound (1998 and 1999 are estimated values, as TPW did not supply values for these years). The Average Annual Daily Traffic (AADT) has increased by almost 93 percent between 1989 and 1999.

Table 1: Traffic Volumes on Section 40 [27]
June 19898,4127,820
July 19909,9658,860
July 19929,8749,080
June 199510,4479,080
June 199711,45110,600
June 199814,02912,707
June 199916,60815,049

The total volume of traffic on section 40 in 1999, based upon the June 1999 ADDT data, is estimated to be 5,492,885 (365 × 15,049) vehicles.

Accident Statistics for Section 40

One of the strongest and most emotional arguments for the twinning of Highway 101 is the number of deaths that have occurred on it over the past decade. Although the number of fatalities on the highway is high, it is generally agreed that the majority of the accidents on Highway 101 are not the fault of the highway, but rather the drivers and their vehicles.

Table 2 shows the annual number of accidents for Section 40 ('Injury': accidents with injuries; 'Fatalities': accidents with fatalities; and 'PDO': those accidents involving property damage only). The total number of accidents on Section 40 average about 20 per year.

Table 2: Total Number of Accidents by Year for Section 40

A highway's safety record can be expressed in terms of the number of accidents per hundred-million vehicle kilometres (or HMVK). In the case of Section 40, there were approximately 115,515,371 (21.03 × 5,492,885) vehicle kilometres (or 1.15 HMVK) in 1999. The number of accidents per year on Section 40 averages about 20, meaning that the accident rate for Section 40 is about 17.4 per HMVK.

Section 40 of Highway 101 is defined as Class 5. If twinned, section 40 will become Class 1. The average accident rate for a Class 1 highway in Nova Scotia is 33.2 per HMVK versus 72.3 per HMVK for a Class 5 highway [20]. In other words, Section 40 already has less than the expected number of accidents for a section of Class 1 (i.e., twinned) highway.

Changing Demographics

An issue that has been repeatedly overlooked by those advocating twinning Highway 101 to the Valley is the province's changing demographics [23]:

The province's changing demographics will have a significant impact upon the province. For example, a person's ability to drive safely decreases with age [7]. The growth in King's and Windsor-West Hants is an aging population, which will mean that the number of accidents can be expected to increase on Highway 101, despite twinning.

The Cost of Car Ownership

According to the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), it now costs over $8000 per year to own and operate an automobile; about 15 percent of the total is due to the cost of fuel and oil [10]. Statistics Canada recently announced that Canadians spent more on motor vehicles and related parts and services in 1999 than they did on food, non-alcoholic beverages, and clothing and footwear combined. Of every $100 of retail spending in 1999, Canadians purchased $35.70 worth of motor vehicles and related parts and services, $19.50 worth of food and non-alcoholic beverages, and $9.70 worth of clothing, accessories and footwear [12].

The cost of crude oil has more than doubled over the past year. There is no reason to believe that this trend will not continue. Lobby groups such as the CAA are calling for governments to reduce taxes on the sale of automobile fuel; however, provincial fuel and federal excise taxes are used in the construction and maintenance of highways. Further reduction in these taxes will simply eat into Nova Scotia's already beleaguered budget. Even with a tax reduction, the rising cost of crude oil will mean that a growing number of Nova Scotians will become transportation poor.

These people will be forced to move to locations that bring them closer to their place of work, or simply stop working altogether. This migration can be expected to lower rural populations still further, resulting in a declining tax base, the closure of schools, and the loss of health care services.

The potential benefits of fuel substitution (i.e., automobiles being powered by non-carboniferous-based fuels) may well be a false economy. For example, substitution fuel prices are expected to equal those of the oil they replace; these vehicles will not reduce the accident rate; and the land devoted to the automobile will not decline. Furthermore, many of the proposed fuels, such as hydrogen, will require the development of new energy production facilities [11].

The Cost of Adding an Additional Two Lanes to Section 40

The cost of adding two lanes to section 40 is projected to be $20 million dollars or $952,380 per kilometre [9].

This number falls considerably short of recent road developments in the province; for example, twinning 18 kilometres of Highway 103 in 1998-99 cost $22 million or $1.22 million per kilometre [24].

The projected price per kilometre seems optimistic when compared with the cost of re-paving. For example, re-paving 8.9 kilometres of Highway 118 in 1997-98 cost $3 million or $0.34 million per kilometre [25].

From past experience, it would appear that the projected cost of twinning section 40, some $20 million, is optimistic. The cost is probably closer to $1.25 million per kilometre, or $25 million. Interestingly, this is the cost originally discussed during the 1999 Nova Scotia provincial election [2].

Environmental Costs Associated with Section 40

Previous studies of twinning Highway 101 have restricted 'environmental' costs to the construction of the Highway. This is a self-serving approach that focuses on the short-term impacts, deliberately avoiding the well-known and widely documented problems associated with road transportation.

Carbon dioxide and carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions

Transportation accounted for about 27 percent of Nova Scotia's greenhouse gas emissions in 1996 [18]. Transportation CO2 emissions come from the combustion of carboniferous fuels such as gasoline and diesel fuel; there are three gases of interest: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O)). Each gas is associated with an emission rate that is expressed in term of the number of litres of fuel combusted. Similarly, each gas has a global warming potential (or GWP), a multiplier that describes the global warming effect of the gas in terms of the number of CO2-equivalents [17]. Table 3 lists the emission rates and GWP of three greenhouse gases associated with transportation.

Table 3: Emission Rates and GWP of greenhouse gases from carboniferous fuels
GasEmission RateGWP
CO22.3 kg/l1
CH40.25 to 0.52 g/l21
N2O0.25 to 0.58 g/l310

The CO2 emissions associated with Section 40 for 1999 are shown in Table 4. The cost per tonne of CO2 is still subject to debate; however, KPMG has found that the average of a number of studies is $13.08 per tonne [19]. Using this value, the cost of CO2 emissions on Section 40 would be in the range of $420,000.

Table 4: Carbon dioxide emissions associated with Section 40 (for 1999)
Vehicles per day
15,049 vehicles
Vehicles per year365 × 15,0495.49 × 106 vehicles
Kilometres driven (all vehicles)21.03km × 5.49 × 106 $1.15 × 108km
Average fuel consumption (11.5l/100 km)11.5l/100km × 1.15 × 108 km1.33 × 107l
CO2 emissions1.33 × 107l × 2.3 kg/l30.5 kt
CH4 emissions (CO2 equivalent)1.33 × 107l × 0.25 to 0.52 g/l0.069 to 0.14 kt
N2O emissions (CO2 equivalent)1.33 × 107l × 0.25 to 0.58 g/l1.03 to 2.4 kt
CO2 equivalent emissions
31.5 to 33 kt

Other emissions

Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide are only three in a long list of emissions associated with the combustion of gasoline and diesel. Many of these emissions are known to cause health problems; for example [21]:

Although one can argue that Section 40 does not run through a populated area of the province, the fact remains that any vehicles using Section 40 will eventually arrive in a populated area. Once in these areas, Nova Scotians will be exposed to the pollutants listed above. Many of these Nova Scotians will become ill after exposure to these pollutants. Many of those who become ill will visit their doctor or hospital for help. These emissions should be of concern to all Nova Scotians, not only because of the suffering it causes, but because of the additional pressures it puts upon our health care system.

In the United Kingdom, with a population of approximately 55 million, the total estimated cost due to the above pollutants is calculated to be 6,665 premature deaths and £19,720 million in health care costs [21]. Applying the same criteria to Nova Scotia, one finds that motor vehicle emissions are responsible for about 120 deaths and over $500 million in health care costs. Even if the effects are only half of what was found in the United Kingdom, motor vehicle emissions would be responsible for about one-sixth of the province's health care expenditures.

Alternatives to Twinning Section 40

Reducing the speed limit

Over the past several months, a number of drivers have been caught exceeding the speed limit on Section 40 (100 km/hr); in at least one case, the driver was clocked at 150 km/hr [8]. Higher speeds lead to a number of problems: increased congestion (due to uneven traffic flow), increased accidents, and higher carbon dioxide emissions [13].

During the oil-crisis of the 1970s, the United States government instituted a 55 mile-per-hour (about 88 kilometres-per-hour) speed limit, which resulted in a 32 percent decline in road fatalities. However, when the speed limit was raised from 55 to 65 miles-per-hour in the mid-1980s, the number of fatalities rose; for example, in New Mexico it almost doubled within a year [14].

Decreasing the speed limit from 100 km/hr to 90 km/hr increases travel time by about 11 percent. A journey that presently takes one hour (60 minutes) will increase to one hour and 7 minutes; a small price to pay if it reduces the burden on our health care system.

Environmentally Sustainable Alternatives

Factors such as the rising price of crude oil, the province's aging population, and the growing commuter population in the Valley, make it necessary to consider alternatives to spending additional taxpayer dollars on twinning Section 40. However, before considering an alternatives, it is necessary to determine the possible ridership of such a system; Table 5 is an estimate of the number of people travelling on Section 40 during the morning and evening rush-hours.

Table 5: Estimate of number of people travelling during rush-hours on Section 40
1999 AADT for Section 4015,049 vehicles
Percentage of vehicles carrying passengers during rush-hours30%
Number of rush-hour passenger vehicles4,515
Number of passengers per vehicle1.3
Estimated number of people travelling during rush-hours5,869

The West Coast Express, a commuter rail link connecting communities in the Fraser River Valley with Vancouver, has attracted 15 percent of the total commuter ridership in less than three years of operation [1]. If 15 percent of the daily Section 40 rush-hour traffic could be encouraged to abandon their automobiles for an alternative mode of transportation, then the new mode would be required to carry about 880 people. This is the total number of people carried during the morning and afternoon rush-hours; if the number of people travelling is divided equally between the two rush-hours, then the new mode would be required to carry about 440 passengers.

There are a number of different ways in which to transport these people between the Valley and Halifax. Long-distance commuter buses is one approach; however, commuter buses have the disadvantage of having to compete with the private automobile and would be subject to traffic problems in Halifax.

Another alternative is to institute a commuter rail service between Windsor and Halifax, a distance of 76 km [6]. Such a service would avoid highway and city traffic entirely, reducing the number vehicles on the roads. (Any such system would require the co-operation of HRM and Metro Transit; for example, bus connections would have to be available to most major points in HRM from stations at Bedford, Fairview, and Halifax.)

A number of politicians have claimed that the cost of such a service make it prohibitive; however, this claim is open to debate. The cost of a single train, consisting of a General Motors F59PHI ($3.45 million [26]) and three Bombardier 167-seat, wheelchair-accessible Bi-level commuter cars ($2.68 million each [5]), would be $11.5 million or half the cost of twinning Section 40 (This configuration of train is being considered for two reasons: first, it represents an upper bound on the cost of such a service; and second, such a configuration meets North American crashworthiness standards). This train would have the capacity to carry all 440 commuters.

An alternative to purchasing this equipment outright for $11.5 million, would be to repay it over a period of time. For example, as shown in Appendix A, if repayments took place over a 20 year period at 10 percent interest, the annual cost (including station upgrades) would be $1.43 million.

The annual operating costs, also shown in Appendix A are $1.66 million. The total annual costs are $3.09 million.

The most significant operating cost is that of track rental ($1.14 million); this could be lowered in a number of ways:

The proposed cost of a return ticket (Windsor-Halifax) is $15.00 and is based upon the cost of driving an automobile from Windsor to Halifax. According to the CAA, the average annual operating costs per kilometre are $0.097, excluding parking; someone commuting from Windsor to Halifax (65km) would spend about $12.61 a day. Assuming the average daily cost of parking is $2.50, the proposed ticket price (operating costs plus parking) is set at $15.00. If all 440 passengers were charged this amount, the revenue generated, $1.65 million, would cover more than 53 percent of the annual costs. The remaining $1.44 million would have to be covered by an annual subsidy.

If the province of Nova Scotia invested $25 million (earmarked for twinning Section 40) at 6 percent, the annual return, $1.5 million, would be sufficient to subsidize the proposed commuter rail system. By removing 15 percent of the rush-hour traffic, over 9,000 fewer litres of motor oil would be consumed daily, reducing the province's greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the demand on the health system by improving the air quality.

If the province were to help the Windsor and Hantsport Railway extend its service from Wolfville to Kentville, a distance of about 11 km, the commuter service could be expanded to Kentville, at a cost of about $6 million. The annual costs for a four-a-day service (two morning and two afternoon trains) is estimated to be $8 million. With additional ridership, the level of subsidy would be in the neighbourhood of $5 million; this figure could be easily covered by investing $112 million (the amount required to twin from Mount Uniacke to Coldbrook) at 6 percent.


This report has examined the proposed twinning of Section 40 of Highway 101. Other than short-term political gain, there can be no justification for spending $25 million to twin Section 40. The argument that it is an 'unsafe section of Highway' cannot be justified, as shown using TPW's own consultant's report.

Much of the additional traffic on Section 40 has been caused by the development boards of King's and Windsor-West Hants counties trying to expand their tax-base by encouraging people to move to the Valley (by converting valuable farmland into residential properties). Many of the people who have moved to the Valley are employed in Halifax, meaning that they commute over Section 40 on a daily basis.

The advocates of twinning Section 40 have overlooked three important issues:

  1. Nova Scotia has an aging population that is growing in size. Many of these people will require modes of transportation other than the automobile, regardless of the number of lanes on Highway 101.

  2. The health implications of automobile emissions. The focus of these advocates has been on those directly involved in road accidents, not upon those who are forced to breath motor vehicle exhausts. The cost to Nova Scotia's health system is estimated to be well over $200 million per year.

  3. The rising cost of crude oil and its impact upon the driving public. As oil prices increase, people are being forced to reconsider non-essential journeys. Since any fall in the price of oil will only be temporary, it is time the provincial government began developing environmentally sustainable transportation alternatives for the citizens of Nova Scotia.


This report recommends that the government of Nova Scotia:


  1. Going the distance. West Coast Express 1998 Annual Report.
  2. Highway 101 pre-construction work to begin without federal money. Chronicle-Herald, 1 June 1999.
  3. Highway divides Tories. Daily News, 10 March 2000.
  4. Boom time in the Annapolis Valley. Chronicle-Herald, 15 December 1999.
  5. Bombardier Receives a $43 Million Car Order From GO Transit in Toronto. CCN Disclosure, 15 May 2000.
  6. VIA System Timetable, 1 May 1988. System Folder no. 242.
  7. Experts deal with older-driver issue. Chronicle-Herald, 23 November 1999.
  8. Police step up 101 patrols. Daily News, 25 April 2000.
  9. Department of Transportation and Public Works Web Site, May 2000.
  10. Canadian Automobile Association. Higher fuel prices are driving up operating costs for motorists. Press Release, 16 March 2000.
  11. Lester R. Brown et al. State of the World 2000. W.W. Norton and company, 2000.
  12. Statistics Canada. Quarterly Retail Commodity Survey. The Daily, 5 April 2000.
  13. John Houghton (Chairman). Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution - Transport and the Environment. Number Eighteenth Report. Oxford University Press, 1995.
  14. Peter Freund and George Martin. The Ecology of the Automobile. Black Rose Books, 1993.
  15. IBI Group. Metropolitan Authority - Commuter Rail Feasibility Study - Final Report, January 1996.
  16. Thomas Haliburton. The Clockmaker. McClelland and Stewart Inc., 1993.
  17. J.T. Houghton et al., editors. Climate Change 1995 - The Science of Climate Change. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 1993.
  18. A. Jaques. Trends in Canada's Greenhouse Gas Emissions (1990-1995). Environment Canada, 1997.
  19. Perry Kinkaide et al. The Cost of Transporting People in the City of Edmonton. KPMG, September 1996.
  20. P. Lane and Associates. Final Report Environmental Assessment Screening Report The Twinning of Highway 101 (Beaverbank to Ellershouse). April 1993.
  21. David Maddison et al. The True Costs of Road Transportation, Blueprint 5. Earthscan, 1996.
  22. Gary Ness. Canadian Pacific's Dominion Atlantic Railway, Volumes 1 and 2. British Railway Modellers of North America, 1995.
  23. Nova Scotia Department of Finance. 1998.
  24. Department of Transportation and Public Works. Four Lanes Open on Highway 103. Press Release, 3 November 1998.
  25. Department of Transportation and Public Works. Personal communication, July 1999.
  26. North Carolina Department of Transportation. New Locomotives Arrive. News Release, 14 January 1999.
  27. Traffic Engineering Division, Department of Transportation and Public Works. Traffic Volumes Primary Highway System. 1995.

Appendix A: Cost of Rail Service

Overview of Service: The proposed service would call at seven stations: Halifax, Fairview, Bedford, Beaverbank, Mount Uniacke, Ellershouse, and Windsor. The service would run across the lines of two railway companies: CN Rail (26km) and the Windsor and Hantsport (50km).

Capital Costs: Capital costs are assumed to cover the costs of the rolling stock (locomotive and bi-level carriages) and station upgrades (station upgrades are restricted to ticket machine installation). Track upgrade and signalling are the responsibility of the railways (covered in the track rental charges, below).

Repayment costs are taken over 20 years at 10 percent:

1 - F59PHI Locomotive at $3.45 million $3.45 million
3 - Bombardier bi-levels at $2.68 million each) $8.04 million
7 - Station upgrades (ticket machines at $100,000 each)$0.70 million
Total $12.15 million
Annual Repayments $1.43 million

Operating Costs: Annual operating costs are based upon the following assumptions (based upon Halifax Regional Municipality's 1996 Commuter Rail Study [15]):

Track rental250 da × 2 trains/da × 76 km × $30/train-km$1.14 million
Maintenance $1.43 million × 10 percent$0.143 million
Staffing 5 employees × $50,000 each$0.250 million
Fuel 250 da × 2 trains/da × 76 km × 3.4l/km × $1.00/l$0.129 million
Annual Operating Costs
$1.66 million

About the Authors

Larry Hughes is an Associate Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Dalhousie University. He takes a keen interest in environmental issues, including transportation and energy, subjects on which he has written numerous articles for the local press as well as for scientific journals and conferences. Dr. Hughes is presently heading the Genuine Progress Indicator Transportation study research group.

Vanessa Husain is a research student, studying for her Master of Environmental Studies at the School for Resource and Environmental Studies at Dalhousie University. Her thesis is the application of the Genuine Progress Indicator to transportation in Nova Scotia. Ms. Husain is presently working in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The authors would like to thank Mr. David Caulfield for his assistance on this report.

© 2000 -- Whale Lake Press