Halifax's Macdonald Bridge has reopened almost 4½ hours later than scheduled due to delays with the Big Lift. 

Traffic started moving around 9:50 a.m. and all lanes are now open. 

John Eppell, chief engineer with Halifax Harbour Bridges, described the delay as "a failure" and said the bridge wasn't safe to open as planned at 5:30 a.m. 

"We had to finish some work in order to make it safe," he said. ​

Communications manager Alison MacDonald said the closure was due to the installation of steel plates where the main cable on the bridge bends into the road deck. 

"They do it in three stages and when they were installing one of these plates they ran into trouble. It's a tight space to get it in there," she said. "There cannot be any traffic on the bridge while that work is taking place."

No guarantees

The crews were working on an area known as the Dartmouth cable bent. It's the place where the first deck segment was put in and the work is supposed to strengthen the area by reinforcing a support beam below deck.

"We were attaching new steel to old, and there's always issues with having things line up when you're joining new to old," said Eppell. 

He said it was a boxed-in work area about the size of a table, so it wasn't possible to add more workers to speed up the process. Problems with the gear added to delays, he said. 

Eppell said the contractor has now agreed to shift similar work of the same nature from weeknights to weekends. He said in hindsight, Tuesday morning's work should have been scheduled for a weekend as well.

There will be "stern discussions" with the contractor, American Bridge Canada, he says. 

This was the first delayed opening since October, when the bridge opened nine hours later than planned.

"We can't guaranteed that they won't happen but we're working very hard, as is the contractor, to ensure they don't happen," Eppell said Tuesday afternoon.  

Bridge closed

The Macdonald Bridge didn't open as planned at 5:30 a.m. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Opening estimates come and gone 

Earlier estimates pegged the opening at 6:15 a.m., 7 a.m. and 8 a.m.

MacDonald said she doesn't know what happened to delay the opening longer than anticipated.

"We certainly apologize for this inconvenience, this is not how we want this project to go," she said.

Adding to the problems, Halifax Harbour Bridges said its website and the bridge app went down this morning, meaning some people were seeing the bridge was open when it wasn't. It was functioning again by early afternoon. 

The bridge closed at 7 p.m. Monday night due to ongoing deck replacement work. It is scheduled to close again Tuesday night at 7 p.m. .

Commuter challenges

Around 9 a.m., traffic was backed up on Highway 111 to the Mic Mac Mall. 

Halifax Transit said several routes were taking detours as a result but when the bridge opened they went back to normal. It kept the Alderney Ferry running every 15 minutes until 10 a.m.

Some people opted to take the ferry across the harbour instead of driving. 

"It's kind of a pain because it's a last-minute decision in the morning," said Katie McRae, who was en route to Saint Mary's University. 

"I'm really frustrated by it. I think that a lot of planning supposedly went into redoing the bridge and doing the decking on the bridge and for it not to be going as planned, it is difficult to take," said Steve Widmeyer, who also typically takes the bridge.  

Commuter Brian Conrod loaded his bike onto the bridge shuttle in Dartmouth, getting ready to make the longer trip around. 

"It slows me down a little bit but I always leave early just in case," he said. "This is the first time in months this has happened so it's not too bad I guess."