Many people in Nova Scotia’s Cumberland County say the toll highway along the Cobequid Pass has taken its toll on the local economy, and they long for the day those tolls may end.

When the 48-kilometre stretch of highway opened in 1997, it was expected that the debt on the privately-built project would be paid off 30 years later by 2026.

Residents are now being told the highway debt should be repaid no later than 2020.

Toll revenues have been higher than budgeted for a number of years, and it was anticipated the debt could have been paid off by the end of next year, but in November 2016 came news that the payment schedule had changed.

A meeting about the project was held on Monday afternoon, with representatives of the provincial transportation department, and local government and business leaders.

A finance official with Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, says estimates of when the debt could be paid off are more accurate now.

“When you get to a point where you have enough to make a lump sum payment, it'll be paid off earlier,” says Dianne Saurette.

Saurette expects that sometime in 2019 or 2020, which was welcome news for those at the meeting.

“I'm glad to know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and that it comes sooner than 2026,” says Bill Martin with Six Rivers Chamber of Commerce.

“I have some questions regarding the financing, and how much this will go on,” says truck driver Bill Dowe. “If we have more than enough to pay the debt already, then let's do that.”

“We in Cumberland County have suffered a bit because of the tolls and our colleagues in the trucking industry sure have felt that, more than maybe myself driving my own car,” says Amherst mayor David Kogon. “Hopefully it'll be taken care of sooner, rather than later.”

The exact date when the highway will be completely paid for is still undetermined.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Dan MacIntosh