Extreme traffic delay on Hwy 104 wreaks havoc: Guysborough resident recounts ordeal in traffic snarl

·4 min read

GUYSBOROUGH – If you were not travelling between Antigonish and New Glasgow on the afternoon of Aug. 5, consider yourself lucky. Hundreds of motorists found themselves stranded in traffic, due to construction, for more than an hour, with some reporting a delay of three hours — this on a day when the province was under a heat warning.

By Friday evening and into Saturday morning, social media was brimming with comments about the extremely long traffic delays experienced by many drivers on that stretch of the TransCanada Highway.

Guysborough resident Elaine Williams clocked her family’s ordeal on Friday at just over two hours.

Williams had set out that morning for a trip to the airport in Halifax, with her son and his family, which includes two small children, to make their return flight to Calgary late that afternoon.

“We left Guysborough before 11 a.m. allowing lots of time for construction, etc. Before 12 p.m., we were in a long line of traffic at Marshy Hope. By 1 p.m., we were near the fire hall in Barney’s River. We had listened to the 11 a.m. news and nothing was reported. We listened to the 12 p.m. news while in the line, thinking that we would hear that there was an accident or construction delay. Once again, no mention of the delay. We finally heard it on the one o’clock news, while still sitting in the Barney’s River area. We had planned to be at the airport at 1:30,” Williams told The Journal in an email.

Williams wrote that her daughter-in-law was concerned that they’d miss their flight but Williams assured her they’d clear traffic by 2 p.m. and still have plenty of time to catch the flight.

“At shortly after 2 p.m., still in the lineup of hundreds of cars, it was clear that they were going to miss their flight…We knew that catching the flight was impossible, but we were hopeful for a later flight that day, or early the next morning,” wrote Williams, which luckily, they did procure for the following morning with the help of an understanding Air Canada representative.

“The story had a happy ending, but it was crazy from start to finish,” wrote Williams, adding, “There were no signs stating an extremely long delay. There were no ‘people’ in the long line explaining what was going on. There should have been a road closure and traffic rerouted through Maryvale, Arisaig, Lismore, etc.”

Williams said the situation led to signs of road rage; illegal passing, driving on the shoulder of the road and illegal U-turns.

“Hundreds of people were negatively impacted: late for medical appointments, other appointments, veterinary appointments, ferry crossings, surgeries, flights and the list goes on and on… [and] a heat wave as well, where some people would not have air conditioning, people had no access to washrooms, diabetics needing food may not have had any …This was all controllable by the company by simply rerouting traffic,” wrote Williams.

In the end, Williams wrote, “We consider ourselves some of the lucky ones, because we know many were in worse situations.”

Williams concluded her comments on the situation noting, “I am grateful for the twinning, and I understand delays, but it is the length of the delay, the lack of signage, the lack of communication through radio announcements, the lack of foresight to do a detour on the ‘old road’, that caused the frustration. We allowed time for construction delays, but never imagined this type of highway chaos.”

The long delay could not have been predicted by motorists or expected as the province’s road conditions webpage – 511.novascotia.ca – stated the area would experience “stop and go traffic” and the Public Works weekly traffic advisory sent to media outlets described the situation as: “Highway 104, westbound lane about one kilometre west of James River Interchange, Exit 30, is reduced to one lane for about one kilometre.”

A delay of more than an hour in traffic is frustrating, but a delay of several hours in traffic while the entire province is under a heat warning appears to contravene the province’s Health and Safety Act.

A provincial heat stress guideline issued in July of 2020, states that it is a legal requirement for employers, “under clause 13(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act to take every reasonable precaution to ensure the health and safety of persons at or near the workplace.”

The hundreds of people left sitting in the cars on the highway last Friday did not feel their health and safety was ensured.

The Journal has sent inquires both to the provincial Department of Labour, Skills and Immigration and the Department of Public Works in regard to the protection of the public in this case. At the time the newspaper went to press, no response was available.

On Saturday, the 511 Nova Scotia twitter account stated work scheduled on that same section of Highway 104 – the Barneys River Interchange—from Aug. 8 -12, had been postponed.

Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Guysborough Journal