Cobequid Pass could be paid off by 2019, government says

Nova Scotia is on track to pay off the Cobequid Pass seven years ahead of schedule, says provincial government, which has not yet decided whether tolls will continue after that to fund maintenance.

The highway in northern Nova Scotia was privately financed when it was built in the 1990s. Drivers must pay a toll between $2 and $24 to use the road and the original payment schedule expected the debt would be paid off by 2026. 

But more people have used the highway than originally expected and the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal now expects it to be paid off by 2019.

The government could then decide to scrap the tolls, or keep charging them to maintain the highway.

Spokesman Brian Taylor noted that by law, all revenue from the tolls must go toward operating and maintaining the Cobequid Pass.

"Previous governments had chosen to make advance payments with the increased toll revenue. The current government has returned to the regular payment schedule so the taxpayers, not the bondholders, benefit from the interest on the increased toll revenue," he said Monday.

"This allows the government to have more funds to invest in the road and positions Nova Scotia to make a large payment to eliminate the bond in the near future."

Staff will work over the next 18 months to review the financial needs of the pass to decide how to wrap up the Highway 104 Western Alignment Corporation, the group the government created to handle the pass.