PEI

'I wish we just had a tunnel': Confederation Bridge restrictions frustrating sports teams, bus companies

Some sports teams and bus companies say they're not sure how many more Confederation Bridge closures they can handle this season.

'There's only so much space to reschedule games,' says UPEI athletic director

Confederation Bridge closures like this one make it challenging for sports teams to get on and off the Island. Teams often travel in buses, which can't cross the bridge when it's closed to high-sided vehicles. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Some sports teams and bus companies say they're not sure how many more Confederation Bridge closures they can handle this season. 

With the bridge closed to high-sided vehicles Wednesday and continued high winds in the forecast, UPEI and St. FX postponed their hockey game, scheduled for Wednesday night. 

UPEI's athletics director Chris Huggan said it's the fourth hockey game postponed this season because of team buses on either side not being able to travel over the bridge. 

"We're going to have to teach our student athletes the anti-storm dance to avoid the weather, because you can only handle so many cancellations. There's only so much space to reschedule games," he said. 

Chris Huggan, UPEI's athletics director, says Confederation Bridge closures and restrictions have kept the university busy rescheduling games, and getting teams on the road early. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Huggan said this has been an unusually challenging year for team travel. In addition to games having to be rescheduled, a few teams have had to leave for games a day early to beat the high winds. 

One team travelling to the Island got all the way to the Confederation Bridge from Halifax, only to see it closed to buses when they got there. 

We can't be losing jobs and ticking customers off because we can't get them across.- Aaron Wedge, Wedge Tours and Bus Charters 

"It just seems winter started early.  Early in November, there were more wind warnings, more restrictions than we've experienced before," Huggan said.

"We co-ordinate well, but there's always the inconvenience on time and resources, the burden it takes when you're rescheduling."

Bus company relying on smaller van

Aaron Wedge, the owner of Wedge Tours and Bus Charters, said the "constant restrictions" on the Confederation Bridge this fall prompted him to buy a 15-passenger van, which isn't considered a high-sided vehicle. 

Now, when high winds are in the forecast during a scheduled trip, he said he arranges to get his charter buses to New Brunswick ahead of time, then shuttles his customers across the bridge. 

"We said, 'let's buy a van and be done with it' ... because the bridge seemed like it was closed [to buses] all the time," said Wedge. 

"We can't be losing jobs and ticking customers off because we can't get them across or get them home again. The events we bring people to are pretty important and pretty special to them."

Aaron Wedge, the owner of Wedge Tours and Bus Charters, says he bought this 15-passenger van in October. That's so when high-sided vehicles like his buses can't get across the bridge, he can shuttle his passengers across in the van instead. (Submitted by Aaron Wedge)

Wedge said at this point, he hasn't passed the additional business costs onto his customers. But he says if the bridge restrictions continue to happen regularly, that may have to change. 

"We're hoping it doesn't get too severe that we have to start charging our customers extra," he said. "There's often a lot of days I wish we just had a tunnel."

CBC reached out to Strait Crossing, the company that operates the bridge, for data on how many times the bridge has been closed since the fall, and how that compares to previous years. 

At this point, those numbers haven't been provided. 

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