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Much to Marine Atlantic s disappointment, the one hour ferry service from New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island is being eliminated by a ten minute drive across one of the most impressive structures in North America. Confederation Bridge is scheduled to be completed by May 31st, 1997, just 44 months after construction began. The bridge has been one of the most controversial topics in Atlantic Canada over the last three years. Questions including; “Will it harm the Northumberland Strait ecosystem?”, and “Wouldn t it be safer if it was under the water?” have surfaced since construction began in 1993.
When the bridge opens on May 31st 1997, 600 employees of Marine Atlantic become unemployed. This did not stand in the government s way when they decided to build a “fixed-link” from Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick to Borden, Prince Edward Island. They went through with the project for several reasons, which include the fact that a “fixed-link” was promised to PEI when it was lured into confederation back in 1873, and the fact that the voyage from New Brunswick to Borden would only take ten minutes, rather than an hour. The tourism industry of PEI will experience a tremendous boom when the bridge opens for two reasons; tourists will be more apt to come to PEI if the travel time is decreased, and the bridge itself has become a tourist attraction. Tourist flocked to the bridge s construction site over the past two summers in such great numbers that the bridge builders contracted out the task of handling the tourists to a local company. On a busy day, there could be in excess of one thousand tourists visiting the construction site. The numbers will increase dramatically when tourists will actually be able to cross the bridge. The bridge has other advantages including; the elimination of sea-sickness, the view from 64 meters above the ocean is quite extraordinary, compared to the view from the upper deck of an out-dated ferry. These advantages will appeal mostly to the tourism industry, which is a large part of the economy of Prince Edward Island.
Rumours have aroused over the past months concerning the possibility of movement at the footing of one of the piers at the bottom of the Northumberland Strait. According to Kevin Pytyck, manager of contract administration for Strait Crossing , “The piers do not shift, period.” Concerns of the safety of the bridge during the winter season have also surfaced. Sceptics seem to believe that a tunnel that would be under the water would be a safer alternative. But the government researched the project extensively and found that a traditional style bridge would be the most practical. The bridge can also be closed for periods of time, as the ferries were, if bad weather arises.
Environmental groups have expressed their opinions of the possibility of stress on the Northumberland Strait ecosystem . The government has concluded that there will be minimal effects on the surrounding ecosystem. But if their environmental research for this project is as extensive as the “Irving Whale Project” the public can expect mishaps of one type, or another.
At this time, the Confederation Bridge looks like a good investment for the government. The toll of twenty seven dollars will be charged, the amount of a ferry crossing, and this amount is projected to lower as the bridge is “paid off”. As a tourist, the thought of a ten minute drive on an extremely modern structure will draw me to Prince Edward Island over the next year. My only concern is the environmental aspect; the government s main concern is keeping seagulls off the bridge. If the government is not careful, they will be cleaning up more crap than what is on the bridge.
Power, Bill. “Narrowing the gap .” Chronicle-Herald [Halifax, NS] 05 Oct. 1996 A1.
Power, Bill. “Strait ahead to PEI.” Chronicle-Herald [Halifax, NS] 05 Oct. 1996
Strait Crossing. “The Northumberland Strait Bridge”. Online. PEI NET.
Available: http://www.peinet.pe/SCI/bridge.html. 7 Oct. 1996.
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