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Ron MacKinley, the transportation minister, drives a tractor across the new bridge Thursday. (CBC)

P.E.I. opened a new bridge this week designed in part to withstand the effects of global warming.

The $4.5 million Darnley Bridge was built about a metre higher than the wooden one it's replacing.

Darrell Evans, a manager at the department of transportation, said the province made the change so the bridge would not be overwhelmed should sea levels rise. That is common practice now on the Island, with most bridges built over the past few years taking account of climate change.

"It costs more, absolutely. More fill, [but] cost for fill is cheap compared to structure. As you get higher, the structure gets longer, and it does cost more," he said.

Given the added cost, the government wants the bridge to last longer, possibly for 75 years.

"Certainly wouldn't last longer. It would be more exposed to certain environmental considerations, such as ice, which would be a big factor. Ice loading, ice floes," Evans said.  

Coastal areas at risk

Darnley is a coastal community north of Summerside. A bridge has connected it to Malpeque for more than 170 years.

Erin Taylor, the province's climate change co-ordinator, said sea level rise should be taken into consideration for all future construction, especially when building along the coast.

"A lot of the bridges are along the coast, a lot of the people are along the coast, a lot of our major infrastructure is along the coast. So we've got potentially a lot of areas that are at risk," Taylor said.

Faye Pound was at the opening of the new bridge. 

"It's a smooth ride, doesn't have the 'bump, bump, bump' of the old days, but with the weight of the vehicles that were going over that bridge, we need something safe," she said.

"The climate is changing, sea levels are rising — that's a sad fact of life — so I think that was good planning."