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Confederation Bridge

From Academic Kids

The Confederation Bridge is a bridge spanning the Abegweit Passage of Northumberland Strait, linking Prince Edward Island with mainland New Brunswick, Canada. At 12.9 kilometres, it is the longest bridge over waters that freeze in the world. It is commonly referred to as the "Fixed Link" by residents of Prince Edward Island.

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Confederation Bridge

The two-lane highway toll bridge carries the Trans-Canada Highway between Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island and Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick. It is a multi-span post-tensioned concrete box girder structure. Most of the curved bridge is 40 metres above water, but it contains a 60 metre high navigation span to permit ship traffic. The bridge rests on 62 piers, of which the 44 main piers are 250 metres apart. The bridge is 11 metres wide.

Tolls are paid only when exiting Prince Edward Island; the current toll rate is $39.50 CDN for an automobile, with other rates for different types of vehicles. Pedestrians and cyclists are not permitted to cross; however, a free shuttle service is available.

Contents

Steamships, Iceboats, and Ferries

When the province of Prince Edward Island entered Confederation on July 1, 1873, the Dominion of Canada was constitutionally bound to provide

"efficient steam service for the conveyance of mails and passengers to be established and maintained between the Island and the mainland of the Dominion, winter and summer, thus placing the Island in continuous communication with the Intercolonial Railway and the railway system of the Dominion..."

Following Confederation, early steamship services across Northumberland Strait connected the Island ports of Charlottetown and Georgetown with railway facilities at Pictou, Nova Scotia. Similar services operated between Summerside and Shediac, New Brunswick.

The most direct route across the Northumberland Strait, however, was at the 13 kilometre wide Abegweit Passage. Infrequent winter service provided by underpowered steamships incapable of breaking sea ice ensured the survival of a passenger and mail service across Abegweit Passage using iceboats until a permanent ferry service was established in the 1910s.

The unsatisfactory winter steamship service and reliance upon primitive iceboats, provoked complaints from the Island government until the federal government decided to implement a railcar ferry service across Abegweit Passage between new ports at Port Borden and Cape Tormentine. An icebreaking railcar ferry, the Prince Edward Island, was put into service in 1915, operating on the former steamship routes until new harbour facilities were opened in 1917. Automobile service was added in 1938 and other vessels followed as the ferry service expanded in the post-war years.

This ferry service was initially the responsibility of Canadian Government Railways and later Canadian National Railway. From 1977-1986, CN's subsidiary CN Marine operated the ferries between Cape Tormentine and Borden. In 1986, CN Marine was renamed when all federal government ferry services in Atlantic Canada were transferred to the new Crown corporation Marine Atlantic.

Ferries and Service Years

  • Prince Edward Island(1915-1968)
  • Scotia I (various years 1917-1955)
  • Scotia II (various years 1917-1968)
  • Charlottetown (1931-1941)
  • Abegweit (1947-1982), renamed Abby (1982-1983)
  • Confederation (1962-1975);
  • John Hamilton Gray (1968-1997);
  • Lucy Maude Montgomery (1969-1973);
  • Holiday Island (1971-1997);
  • Vacationland (1971-1997);
  • Abegweit (1982-1997)

Early Discussions of a Fixed Link

Early talk of a fixed link can be traced to George Howlan who called for construction of a railway tunnel beneath Abegweit Passage at the same time as a railway was being built across the province in the 1870s. Howlan also raised the issue as a member of the provincial Legislative Assembly, and in March, 1891 as a Senator and member of a delegation to meetings on the subject, conducted at the British Parliament. The idea lost favour following his death in 1901.

Talk of a fixed link was revived in the 1950s and 1960s, coinciding with federal election campaigns. The topic was raised in 1957, only two years following the opening of the Canso Causeway, and at the same time as another mega-project, the St. Lawrence Seaway was being constructed. A rockfill causeway was proposed to cross Abegweit Passage, with a 300-metre bridge/tunnel to accommodate shipping. This plan was rejected for navigational reasons but was raised again in 1962, and in 1965, the federal government, ignoring concerns of the shipping industry, called for tenders for a $148 million CDN fixed link featuring a tunnel/causeway/bridge. Approach roads and railway lines were constructed at Borden and Jourimain Island but the project was formally abandoned in 1969 upon scientific recommendation in favour of improved ferry services.

Due to the extremely complex tidal regime in the Northumberland Strait consisting of diurnal and semi-diurnal cycles, any attempt to close Abegweit Passage would be next to impossible since the tidal cycles on each side of a causeway would be placed at opposites to each other. It is estimated by tidal experts at the Canadian Hydrographic Service, that tidal currents through a gap in such a causeway would be in excess of 18 knots (33 kilometres/hour), powerful enough to counter most commercial ships and to sweep away boulders the size of houses.

New Proposal and the Plebescite

Consideration of a fixed link was renewed in the 1980s by an unsolicited proposal from a Nova Scotia businessman. The federal government favoured the construction of a fixed link chiefly because of the rising costs of providing ferry service (a constitutional requirement dating from PEI's accession to Confederation) and the increasing deficits being incurred by the railway system on PEI (run as part of Canadian National, then a crown (state) corporation). The federal government proposed to provide a fixed subsidy for the construction and operation of a fixed link, in return for the province agreeing to the abandonment of the ferry service and the railway system. Following the election of the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney, with its agenda for regional development through so-called "mega-projects," Public Works Canada called for formal proposals and received three offers in 1985-1986. These proposals included a tunnel, a bridge, and a combined tunnel-causeway-bridge.

These developments sparked an extremely divisive debate on the Island, and Premier Joe Ghiz promised a plebiscite to gauge public support, which was held on January 18, 1988.

Friends of the Island

During the debate, the anti-link group Friends of the Island cited potential ecological damage from the construction, as well as concerns about the impact on Prince Edward Island's lifestyle in general, and noted that the "mega-project" model has had limited success in other areas of the world, and rarely enriched the local population. The Friends of the Island believed that a fixed link was being pressured by a federal government not willing to shoulder the cost of constitutional obligations for funding an efficient ferry service, and that a link would be built largely for the benefit of mainland tourists and businesses waiting to exploit the Island.

Islanders for a Better Tomorrow

The pro-link group Islanders for a Better Tomorrow noted transportation reliability would result in improvements for exporters and the tourism industry. The result was 59.4% in favour of the fixed link.

The debate did not end with the plebiscite, and after numerous legal challenges and a lengthy environmental impact assessment, the announcement that the Northumberland Strait Crossing Project would be built was finally made on December 2, 1992.

Construction

Construction was started by the consortium Strait Crossing Incorporated (SCI) in the fall of 1993, beginning with preparation of staging facilities. Bridge components were built year-round from 1994 to summer of 1996, and placement of components began in fall 1994 until fall 1996. Approach roads, toll plazas and final work on the structure continued until the spring of 1997, at an estimated total cost of $1 billion CDN.

All bridge components were constructed on land, in purpose-built staging yards located on the shoreline at Amherst Head, fronting on Borden Harbour just east of the town and ferry docks, and an inland facility located at Bayfield, New Brunswick about 3 kilometres west of Cape Tormentine. The Amherst Head staging facility was where all large components were built, including the pier bases, ice shields, main spans, and drop-in spans. The Bayfield facility was used to construct components for the near-shore bridges which were linked using a launching truss extending over shallow waters almost 2 kilometres from the New Brunswick shore, and 0.5 kilometres from the Prince Edward Island shore.

Extremely durable high-grade concrete and rebar was used throughout construction of the pre-cast components, with the estimated lifespan of the bridge being in excess of 100 years. Their sheer size and weight required strengthening of the soil base during the design and preparation work for the Amherst Head staging facility, as well as the use of a crawler transport system to move pieces from fabrication to storage, and onto a nearby pier. These crawler transports, using specially designed teflon-coated concrete rails, earned the nickname lobsters from workers.

All major components were lifted from the Amherst Head staging facility, transported, and placed in Abegweit Passage using the HLV Svanen, a Danish-built heavy lift catamaran, which during the construction of the fixed link, was reportedly the tallest man-made structure in the province. HLV Svanen was custom-built for use on the Great Belt Bridge in the early 1990s, Denmark's largest construction project, and was modified at a French shipyard before working on the Northumberland Strait Crossing Project. Following the placement of the final major component and completion of the bridge structure in Abegweit Passage on November 19, 1996, HLV Svanen returned to Denmark for use in construction of the resund Bridge.

Construction of the fixed link required over 5,000 workers ranging from labourers and specialty trades, to engineers, surveyors and managers. The economic impact of construction on Prince Edward Island was substantial, with the GDP rising over 5% during the construction, providing a short-term economic boom for the province.

Naming and Grand Opening

Since the Island-coined nickname "Fixed Link" was not considered appropriate, and the federal government-coined project name "Northumberland Strait Crossing Project" deemed awkward, there was a need for a formal name for the structure. Throughout construction, the federal government received suggestions for names and on September 27, 1996 the name "Confederation Bridge" was chosen.

This name is not without controversy as many Islanders feel the word "Confederation" is ubiquitous throughout the province, finding use in the name of a Northumberland Ferries Limited vessel (M/V Confederation), a performing arts centre and art gallery (Confederation Centre of the Arts), and the province-wide rails to trails system (Confederation Trail), as well as in tourism promotions (eg. "Birthplace of Confederation"). The preference of Islanders was reportedly to use the name "Abegweit Crossing" which would pay homage to the Abegweit Passage, the vessel M/V Abegweit which the bridge would replace, and to the Mi'kmaq traditional name for the province.

However, at a time when national unity was recently challenged in the razor-thin results of the 1995 Quebec referendum, the federal government opted for a bilingually appropriate and nationally accepted, politically correct name for Canada's longest bridge connecting the mainland portion of the country to the province where the first meetings at the Charlottetown Conference in September 1864 led to the Confederation of British North America.

Following the completion of the structure on November 19, 1996, SCI worked throughout the winter on numerous projects including: paving the bridge deck, placing protective walls which act as wind barriers, placing bridge deck and navigational lighting, constructing the Borden-Carleton toll plaza, and finishing the New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island approach roads. In separate construction, the federal and provincial governments built a new commercial and tourist development on the abandoned CN rail yards in Borden-Carleton, with phase I of this facility opening in spring 1997 as "Gateway Village". New Brunswick has never received similar federal support to improve the economy of Cape Tormentine, which has become a shadow of its former role in PEI transportation history, although a new eco-tourist and visitor centre was opened on Jourimain Island near the western end of Confederation Bridge in recent years.

The official opening for the bridge took place on May 31, 1997 with the first traffic crossing at approximately 17h00 ADT following a nationally televised ceremony which aired on CBC and included a sailpast of the schooner Bluenose II, a flyover by the Snowbirds, and an emotional farewell to the beloved ferries which made their final crossings that evening. It is estimated that almost 75,000 people participated in a "Bridge Walk" and "Bridge Run" during the hours immediately prior to the opening for traffic.

In the days following the opening of the bridge, ferry operator Marine Atlantic disposed of its four vessels. The ferry terminals and docks in both ports were removed over the summer of 1997.

Impact

The number of tourist arrivals in PEI has increased dramatically since the construction of the bridge. In 1996, the year before the bridge opened, 740,000 tourists came to P.E.I, but in 1997, 1.2 million arrived in the province. [1] (http://canadianeconomy.gc.ca/english/economy/1997bridge_to_pei.html) Goods delivery both to and from the island is now more reliable and cheaper. Large chain stores such as FutureShope and WalMart have established locations on PEI for the first time. Due to the arrival of these stores, many smaller local stores went out of business.

See also

External link

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