PEI

Windiest month ever on Confederation Bridge contributes to 'exceptional' number of closures since September

According to Strait Crossing, over the past four months, high winds forced high-sided vehicles to stay off the bridge for 178 hours. That's more than double the average.

Bridge closed to high-sided vehicles 178 hours from September to end of December, doubling the average

Over the past four months, the bridge has been completely shut down for a total of 12 hours — more than six times the average. (Canadian Press)

The company that operates the Confederation Bridge says teams and businesses that rely on it are right to be especially frustrated with Mother Nature these days.

According to Strait Crossing, over the past four months high winds forced high-sided vehicles — like buses and transport trucks — to stay off the bridge for 178 hours. That's more than double the average. 

Over that same time, the bridge was completely shut down for a total of 12 hours — more than six times the average. 

"[The last quarter] of 2018 truly was an exception," said Michel Le Chasseur, Strait Crossing's general manager.

"We can imagine the frustration of hockey teams and so on.  But you have to do that for their safety, and everybody understands that.

"So it's really an exceptional year."

Le Chasseur says November marked the windiest month ever on the bridge, which had a "significant" impact on bridge traffic. He says nine per cent fewer vehicles crossed the bridge in November than in the previous year. 

"Keep in mind the bridge doesn't actually have to be closed to cars to see a drop in car traffic," he said. "If the bridge is closed to trucks, it means the weather's bad, and people say 'I'm not going to go today'.... No traffic is not good, so we're not happy either."

Figuring out next steps

But, what to do about it? 

The Confederation Bridge closes to high-sided vehicles when steady winds exceed 70 km/h, and gusts consistently exceed 85 km/h.

Strait Crossing shuts the bridge down completely when steady winds exceed 105 km/h.

Le Chasseur says there are no plans to revisit those rules, which "rest on science."

But he says if the high winds the Confederation Bridge has experienced since the fall become a trend over the next few years, that will prompt a discussion about what, if anything, can be done to lessen the impact on bridge users. 

Strait Crossing shuts the bridge down completely when steady winds exceed 105 km/h. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

"The response then would be to consult with users and Transport Canada, and so on, to try to find a different way of doing things," he said. "But based on 2018, right now, it's way too early to do that."

The bridge manager points out that bus charter companies and sports team have already come up with some solutions on their own. 

Aaron Wedge, the owner of Wedge Tours and Bus Charters, told CBC Wednesday he recently purchased a 15-passenger van, which can still cross the bridge when it's closed to high-sided vehicles. 

"What we see is industry actually reacting to the realities of where we live," said Le Chasseur.  "And we have enough information out there on a timely basis, that people can adjust their plans, change their plans, or postpone one day."

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