A 14 kilometer ice-hardened concrete bridge spanning the Northumberland Strait and connecting New Brunswick to Prince Edward Island. Completed in 1997, this bridge replaced an oft-delayed system of icebreaker ferries. Known to PEI locals as the Fixed Link, after the fractious Fixed Link Debate, or more simply, "The Bridge".

Confederation Bridge is currently the longest bridge in the world over ice covered salt water. It is part of the Trans-Canada Highway in the Atlantic Provinces region of Eastern Canada. The bridge connects Prince Edward Island with the mainland at New Brunswick.

Construction on the bridge began in the fall of 1993. Lobbying for a bridge across Northumberland Strait had been an issue for years. Since 1873, access to P.E.I. had been by ferry. As the population grew and tourism increased, so did the cost of operating the ferry service. In the winter the ferry service was affected by freezing arctic winds and ice jams which caused delays and cancellations. By the 1990s modern technology made construction of a bridge feasible.

Building the bridge was a challenge that included civil engineering, marine and ocean engineering, and geomatics. It was completed over a four year period with over 2000 people working on it at most any given time. The piers were modeled after the shape of ice-breaker hulls. The cone shaped base causes thick sheets of ice to break apart upon impact and flow around the pier. The arrangement of the piers and the rest of the structure was designed to have the least amount of impact on the surrounding environment.

The spans of the bridge are of a concrete box girder design. There are 65 seperate sections that were constructed on land and then transported to their final location by a "floating crane". One of the largest marine cranes in the world was brought in from Denmark to float the massive sections into the strait where they were precisely set in place using satellite global positioning. The bridge was designed to last 100 years in the harsh climate and to withstand impacts from passing ships.

The bridge opened in the spring of 1997. The 12 minute trip across the 12.9 kilometers of bridge was much shorter than the three hour trip by ferry. The two lanes are monitored 24/7 by Strait Crossing Bridge Limited, the company that operates and maintains the Confederate Bridge. Emergency call boxes are spaced 750 meters apart across the bridge. There are also video cameras on the bridge and it is patrolled regularly to assist any motorists experiencing a problem. The toll for 2003 is $38.50 for an automobile which is less than the cost of taking the ferry. A motorcyle toll costs $15.25. The only time a toll is collected is when you leave Prince Edward Island to return to the mainland.

Sources:
PEI's Confederation Bridge (www.tourcanada.com/cbridge.htm)
Confederation Bridge (www.nativeaccess.com/allabout/projects_confederation.html)
Confederation Bridge (www.confederationbridge.com)

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