Proposed plan released for Highway 103

The work proposed at Exit 32 in Yarmouth County is concept only at this stage




SaltWire Network


Construction isn't anticipated to begin until the 2025-2026 fiscal year, but the province is providing a look at what is proposed to improve a problematic section of Highway 103 in Yarmouth County. Many years after being identified by the province as a priority for safety improvements, Exit 32 – known locally as ‘the Argyle exit' – is finally on the government's Five-Year Highway Improvement Plan. That announcement came in January. The Department of Public Works has released a drawing of the proposed project, which at this stage is concept only. An interchange includes a diamond ramp configuration with roundabouts at each of the new ramp intersections. An existing overpass just east of Exit 32 will be used as the interchange structure. Nakile Drive, which currently sees its only entrance and exit directly off of Highway 103, will no longer exist. Instead, an upgraded Myrtle Lane and Chemin Old Oak Road, with the construction of bridge structures, will connect traffic from Trunk 3 to Nakile Home for Special Care and other nearby residences – thereby taking that direct access off of the highway itself. Exit 32A, the ‘Glenwood exit' would also be removed with new access onto and off of Highway 103 from Trunk 3 also being through Chemin Oak Park Road and Myrtle Lane. The proposed plan is still not the finalized plan. There is continued work to do and the province also wants public input. A public information session will take place this spring. Argyle MLA and provincial cabinet minister Colton LeBlanc says it's good to see this project moving forward. “It's a significant undertaking for the department and it's going to certainly improve the safety for residents and for commuters that travel that section of highway,” he says. “The major construction is starting in 2025-2026, but it's certainly going to see some safety improvements, I'd say early on … through a phased approach. That has been discussed.” Part of that phased approach, LeBlanc says, is the new connector from Trunk 3 that will provide access to the Nakile seniors' long-term care facility. “A major part of the safety concern is the Nakile Drive issue. That would be tackled early on in the construction phase.” This Yarmouth County stretch of Highway 103 has long been talked about, examined and studied. Safety concerns have continuously been raised. In 2015, a Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal operational and safety review identified this section of Highway 103 as a future priority for work, suggesting back then the construction of an interchange to eliminate Exits 32 and 32A. This is a congested one-kilometre span of highway, where the posted speed limit is 100 km/h. There are two official highway exits/entrances, Nakile Drive, a bridge, a curve and two adjacent left and right-hand turn lanes. In the mornings it's busy trafficwise with people driving to work and school buses heading to Drumlin Heights Consolidated School. At Nakile Drive, which is the only access to the Nakile long-term seniors care facility, as well as some homes, there is no right-hand turn lane off of the highway – just a narrow gravel shoulder. This means right-turning traffic has to slow down on the highway itself to complete the turn. There is added danger if vehicles swerve around these slow-turning vehicles as it places them directly in the path of a turning lane from the opposite direction. There have been reports of near misses in the past between vehicles traveling in opposite directions. “On many occasions, I have met vehicles head-on in my turn lane. I have nowhere to go as there are (other) vehicles traveling (on the highway),” a Nakile employee told Saltwire years ago. Nakile administrator Gail Kaiser told Saltwire in the past that there is a lot of strategizing by Nakile employees and other visitors when you're having to make that right-hand turn. After all, motorists can't take the turn at 100 kilometres an hour. “My biggest fear driving in from Yarmouth is that the cars behind me won't know I'm turning right at Nakile Drive and will either rear-end me or go out around me and hit somebody head-on,” Kaiser had said. Asked this month how staff are reacting to the proposed highway improvements, she says, “Staff and visitors were very happy to hear the news of this long overdue highway project. Hooray!” Department documentation about the work says land requirements for the project are still under review. Property acquisition is expected to begin in the fall of 2023. Non-invasive environmental and archaeological field studies have also begun and will continue throughout 2023. The project also still requires detailed design for the roadways, interchange, and other structures. The department is continuing with pre-construction activities to ensure the project can proceed to construction when appropriate approvals are in place. “There's going to be a lot to be taking place in the next couple of years,” LeBlanc says. “We've waited a long time, obviously, to have this project on the highway improvement plan. We're making progress. We just need a little extra push to get this over the finish line.”