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Halifax bridge closure last weekend created travel chaos, hefty traffic numbers on the Macdonald

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For those travelling across the Macdonald Bridge last weekend, it will come as no surprise, the reported number of vehicles making the trip between Halifax and Dartmouth, N.S., was sky high.

On Saturday alone, Halifax Harbour Bridges (HHB) says 47,000 vehicles crossed over the 69-year-old bridge through the course of the day.

With the MacKay Bridge closed last weekend for a resurfacing project, the Macdonald Bridge was the only span open, causing it to be busier than usual.

In a news release Thursday afternoon, HHB said the usual number of vehicles crossing the Macdonald Bridge on a given weekend in May was about 33,000.

The heaviest traffic day during that month was actually about 43,800.

With Halifax down to one bridge last weekend, many trying to get around the city complained of very long delays.

The situation wasn’t helped Saturday after a three-vehicle crash brought traffic to a halt on the Macdonald.

It took about an hour to clear that up.

A vehicle travels on the Macdonald Bridge. (Jonathan MacInnis/CTV Atlantic)

When asked about clearing collisions on the bridge, HHB communications manager Steven Proctor told CTV News in an email, they have a standing agreement with a local tow truck company that they will be at the bridge within 10 minutes.

“The Macdonald Bridge is fully staffed with extra bridge patrol on-hand,” Proctor said. “If there are no accidents, the flow on the bridge is heavy, but moving.”

Adding to last weekend’s problems, Proctor said, was clogged side streets, which made it hard for drivers to actually get to the Macdonald Bridge.

Unfortunately for travellers, they can expect much the same this weekend.

The MacKay Bridge will be closed for planned maintenance and inspection projects starting Friday at 7 p.m. It will reopen to traffic Monday at 5:30 a.m.

The Macdonald Bridge's bike lane and pedestrian walkway will be available for use as usual. Drivers can check traffic updates on the free MACPASS app or by visiting halifaxharbourbridges.ca.

The other upcoming weekend MacKay Bridge closures are:

  • June 21 at 7 p.m. to June 24 at 5:30 a.m.
  • July 5 at 7 p.m. to July 8 at 5:30 a.m.

According to HHB, both bridges support more than $120 million of economic activity annually.

And when both are open, about 105,000 vehicles cross the two bridges each workday.

As for the weekend’s work on the nearly 50-year-old MacKay Bridge, Proctor said weather did hamper some of the work last Saturday.

“The rain last Saturday and rain scheduled this Saturday have hampered progress, but we still expect to get the required work done within the four closures,” he said.

The toll booths on the Macdonald Bridge are pictured. (Jonathan MacInnis/CTV Atlantic)

As for whether HHB has contemplated removing the toll on the bridge during weekend closures to allow traffic to move quicker, Proctor says the toll booths are not the issue.

“With the traffic lights on either end of the bridge and the heavy volume of traffic, we do not see the toll booths as a pinch point,” he said.

This past Saturday’s vehicle crossing isn’t a record.

According to Proctor, the most crossings of the Macdonald in the last 15 years was Dec. 14, 2012.

On that day, 50,745 vehicles travelled on that bridge.

“There was a transit strike I believe,” Proctor added.

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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