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Confederation Bridge HeaderConfederation Bridge HeaderAlthough Prince Edward Islanders treasure their home and recognize the uniqueness of their “islandness,” the challenge of crossing the Northumberland Strait to reach the mainland has long been an issue. In fact, the Canadian government was able to persuade Prince Edward Island to join Confederation in large part by promising to provide “a continuous means of communication between Prince Edward Island and the mainland.” During these early days, there was often talk about a bridge, or even a tunnel under the Strait, but neither option was financially viable. Ultimately, and amid great debate and controversy in the mid-1980s, the federal government began the process that led to the construction of the Confederation Bridge.

Built by Strait Crossing Inc., bridge construction began in October 1993, and the last span was dropped in place on November 19, 1996. The 12.9-kilometre Confederation Bridge crosses the Northumberland Strait at its narrowest point, joining Borden-Carleton, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick. It is the longest bridge over ice-covered waters in the world. The bridge rests on gravity foundation footings on bedrock up to 35 metres in depth. The main bridge components were produced at the 150-acre Staging Facility in Borden-Carleton. Four separate component production areas allowed for the manufacture of main girders, drop-in spans, pier shafts, and pier bases.

Confederation Bridge is estimated to have cost $1 billion to build, somewhat more than the projected $840 million. Strait Crossing will operate the bridge for 35 years, from 1997 to 2032, at which time the bridge becomes the property of the Canadian government. Confederation Bridge is projected to last for 100 years.

The highest point of the bridge is 60 metres above water, located at the Navigation Span, while the average height of the entire structure is 40 metres. From the shore, one notices that the bridge is not straight but curved. It was designed this way in order to ensure that drivers remain attentive and thus reduce the potential for accidents that, according to experts, happen more often on straight highways or bridges. For these same reasons of safety, vehicles are not permitted to stop or pass other vehicles while on the bridge.

Confederation BridgeThe bridge opened on May 31, 1997, and carries 2 lanes of traffic 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Drivers travelling at normal speeds (80 kilometres per hour) can cross the bridge in approximately ten minutes. However, the speed limit is dropped when weather conditions dictate. During the winter, high winds across the strait can be dangerous enough to cause traffic restrictions, closing the bridge to large trucks, recreational vehicles, and buses. Cars are often still able to cross because they are protected by the 1.1-metre high concrete barriers on the bridge that act as a windbreak while preventing drivers from seeing directly over the side.

Pedestrians and cyclists are not permitted on the Confederation Bridge and must report to the control/transfer facilities at either end of the structure. A shuttle bus transports these travellers across the bridge on demand, with a maximum two-hour wait. A wheelchair lift equipped vehicle is also available.

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