Sydney's 'road to nowhere' getting ready to finally go somewhere

The so-called road to nowhere in Sydney, N.S., is finally opening six years after it was built.

"Our hope is that we get it open this year, which would have to be within the next two to three weeks, which is an optimistic goal, but you never know," said Donnie Burke, executive director of Nova Scotia Lands.

The Lingan Road extension was built in 2013 across the former coke ovens site as part of the $400-million tar ponds cleanup.

The new road was supposed to provide a second connection between Sydney and Whitney Pier, in addition to the existing overpass that takes vehicle traffic over the remediated industrial site.

However, the extension has been blocked at one end by concrete barriers and was never connected to Lingan Road because local railway companies denied access to cross their tracks.

Nova Scotia Lands manages the former tar ponds and coke ovens sites, and Burke said the province has finally been given approval to open the intersection.

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He said the railway companies have agreed to the plan and the tar ponds project will pay for the work.

"There was $20 million set aside for future site use and this was part of it," Burke said.

The Cape Breton Regional Municipality has already begun working on its share of the intersection where Lingan Road meets Sydney Port Access Road, also known as Spar Road.

Jim MacLeod, regional councillor for the area, said people in Whitney Pier will be relieved to have more than one access point in and out of Sydney once the road is opened up.

"They called it the road to nowhere," he said. "I'm very pleased to see that it's finally being addressed."

Tom Ayers/CBC

Burke said one set of railway tracks will be ripped up and paved over.

That rail line has been unused for several years after the railway company, Genesee and Wyoming, decided to stop running trains across Cape Breton Island.

The Sydney Coal Railway still operates a relatively short set of tracks on the Whitney Pier side of Spar Road. Trains regularly use those tracks to get coal from Sydney harbour to Nova Scotia Power's nearby Lingan generating station.

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Burke said the stretch of tracks that Genesee and Wyoming used were actually leased from the province, so Nova Scotia Lands is removing that portion.

He said the province will retain the right-of-way in case a rail line is needed in the future.

The Donkin coal mine might want the rail access to move its coal off-island, but there is currently no plan for that, said Burke.

A new fire station was recently built on Victoria Road where the Lingan extension begins. Opening the road will provide the Cape Breton Regional Fire Service with better response times.

Burke said the new road will also open up potential development of the former coke ovens site. The remediation of the former tar ponds and now-defunct steel plant site led to the creation of Harbourside Industrial Park, which has attracted a number of businesses.

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Some companies are already interested in possibly locating where the coke ovens used to be, Burke said.

"We always have tire-kickers on brownfield redevelopments," he said. "We've had a couple recently just looking at some small-scale stuff, so once the road does go into service, it should open up some more opportunities here."

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