Confederation Bridge will still take cash overnight — if you ask — under new proposal

There could be some changes coming for those who travel across the Confederation Bridge at night.

Bridge encouraging more drivers to use debit and credit cards

Strait Crossing says that after conducting a pilot project, it learned that drivers want the option of paying in cash when they travel at night. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

There could be some changes coming for those who travel across the Confederation Bridge at night.

The company that runs the bridge was considering not accepting any cash from drivers, but now, it's come up with a compromise. 

For three weeks in December, Strait Crossing Bridge Ltd — the company that operates the bridge — conducted a pilot project to look into the possibility of going completely cashless for those crossing overnight.

Strait Crossing talked to drivers about how it worked, and has made some proposals based on what it heard.

Drivers are saying they want the option of paying in cash when they travel at night.

Drivers would use intercom

Currently, there's an operator in one toll booth who takes cash between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Under the new proposal, there would no longer be a toll collector overnight. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Under the new proposal, there would no longer be a toll collector overnight, but instead, drivers would have to use an intercom to hail an operator from the building next door, or pay a patroller and change will be provided.

It would only be in effect from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. from October to May of each year.

"There's not a whole lot of transactions, period, during that time, and cash transactions occur once every 90 minutes, so to have somebody standing there for eight hours for one transaction every 90 minutes, doesn't really make sense that way," explained Michel Le Chasseur, the general manager of the bridge.

Most drivers use cards

Most drivers do use a credit or debit card, and Strait Crossing wants even more drivers to use tap and go debit and credit options to get traffic moving through faster.

Strait Crossing wants even more drivers to use tap and go debit and credit options when paying to cross the bridge. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

Under the new plan, even those who use cash will only have to wait, at most, for five minutes.

"We have a contractual obligation to move you within five minutes, and therefore that's the timer, and we totally intend to respect that," Le Chesseur said.

Strait Crossing will now ask Transport Canada for approval to make the changes. 

Changes could come in October

If the department gives the OK, the changes could come in by October. 

If Transport Canada approves of the proposal, changes could come in by October. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

In an e-mailed statement to CBC, P.E.I.'s Minister of Transportation Paula Biggar said that the department has been in discussion with Strait Crossing and Transport Canada regarding the possible changes.

"We are pleased that Strait Crossing will continue to accept cash overnight," she said. 

"The Confederation Bridge is a vital transportation link connecting Prince Edward Island to the mainland. It is not just an important piece of transportation infrastructure, it is a lifeline for our tourism and export sectors and for Islanders to have access to services, including health care services, off-Island. We must ensure that the Confederation Bridge is financially accessible to all and operated to its full potential."

With files from Tom Steepe