Highway 104

It takes a lot of rock to build safe roads and highways! For example, about 1.7 million tonnes of rock aggregate are going into the twinning of highway 104.

Between 2020-2023, 38 kilometres of highway 104 are being twinned from Sutherlands River to Antigonish, where the highway was just two lanes. The project includes construction of 10 kms of new 4-lane highway, 28 kms of new 2-lane highway, two new interchanges and about 24 new bridges.

All that rock aggregate will save lives by making the 104 safer. From 2009-20, there were 391 collisions, including 19 fatalities in 14 fatal collisions along that part of the highway. The project includes twinning the notoriously dangerous section around Barneys River.

At least five quarries will provide the 1.7 million tonnes of rock aggregate necessary for the project. Aggregate will also be produced along the highway corridor as blasting removes rock and levels the ground in preparation for construction. The aggregate will go into subgrades, base gravels and fill, and into producing the asphalt. Aggregate makes up about 94% of asphalt.

To keep construction costs down, companies establish a lot of small quarries widely dispersed throughout the province, especially in areas where construction projects are planned, so aggregate can be sourced relatively close to construction sites. This reduces the amount of fuel used in trucking the aggregate, which reduces cost and lowers emissions from fuel consumption.

Keeping costs down means more paving can be done and reduces the financial burden on taxpayers. This model is the only economic way to build and maintain our roads and highways, and to keep our infrastructure safe for Nova Scotians.

The network of small quarries means aggregate quarried in a community is generally used in the community to improve the local road system and make it safer for residents.

It also makes aggregate available to local contractors for other types of construction projects in the community. For example, a typical single-family home contains about 160 tonnes of gravel (about 11 truckloads) beneath the basement floor, as drainage rock around the foundation to prevent basement flooding, and in concrete walls, floors, steps, sidewalks, patios and driveways.

Aggregate is the most-mined material in the world because it is used in virtually all infrastructure, including homes, roads, schools and hospitals.