Transportation Department to review Cobequid Pass closure

The day after the season’s first snowfall trapped motorists on a northern Nova Scotia highway for up to three hours, the Transportation Department says it will be reviewing its procedures to see if improvements can be made.

Traffic on the Cobequid Pass was backed up for more than a kilometre in both directions on Friday evening after trucks got stuck on the hill near the Wentworth-Collingwood exit, blocking both lanes.

The department announced the closure of the pass shortly before 8:30 p.m.

It wasn’t until 11 p.m. that plows and salt trucks were able to get through the lines of vehicles and get eastbound traffic moving. Not long afterward, a westbound lane was also cleared enough for vehicles to get through.

The pass was fully reopened just after 5 a.m.

Extra training coming soon

Department spokesperson Marla MacInnis said a closure plan for the area was reviewed with staff in the district before the storm hit.

“In the coming days, we will be reviewing the events of last night and our procedures to determine if there are ways our response can improve or closures can be prevented in the future,” MacInnis said in an emailed statement on Saturday. “Further training for staff that work on the Cobequid Pass is scheduled within the coming weeks.”

MacInnis said the signs informing motorists of road conditions and closures were functioning properly.

Tom Taggart, a councillor for the Municipality of Colchester, said the pass is a known troublesome spot in the winter.

“There’s no question that there’s a five-mile stretch of road up there that has different conditions — without question.

“The trucks get up there and they get spinning and sideways and the traffic backs up behind them.”

Taggart said crews usually do a great job in the wintertime preparing the road and handling heavy snowfalls, but sometimes, despite good preparation, “I hate to say this, but it sort of … is what it is.”

“If Transportation … they had their employees on standby and ready to go up there with the salt trucks and plows, and if the sign was working, everything’s good. If they weren’t prepared, that’s an issue.”

Full complement of staff already in place

Taggart questioned whether the Transportation Department should begin its full complement of winter staff earlier on the Cobequid Pass than the rest of the province, which begins full staffing on Dec. 1.

But MacInnis said that’s exactly what already happens.

She said the pass is prepared for winter and fully staffed one month before the rest of the province, and had all trucks operating on Friday.

All transportation bases are required to be winter-ready by Dec. 1, though staff are ready to perform winter snow duties before then.

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