HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia's only tolled highway will continue to charge motorists for at least another year according to the province's transportation minister.

Lloyd Hines says he wants to keep the tolls on the 45-kilometre Cobequid Pass on Highway 104 in order to pay for improvements including a pull-off area for motorists and a maintenance area for road crews and plows.

Hines says a storm last November that forced a temporary shutdown of the highway prompted the decision.

He says that means instead of immediately paying of the remaining portion of debt incurred to build the pass, the province will use money from collected tolls for the highway improvements.

The Transportation Department says the province owes about $41 million in current and long-term debt and last year collected about $12-million in net income from toll collection.

The minister's decision comes after the government indicated in 2018 that the tolls might be lifted for motorists by the end of 2019 by paying off the debt early.

There was no word from Hines on the cost of the road improvements, but he says tenders could be issued by the end of this year.

The Cobequid Pass, which was built through a public-private partnership, opened in 1997.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 10, 2020.