Saturday, December 2, 2023

Bridging the Gap

The two bridges spanning the Narrows of Halifax harbour have certainly proven to be successful. In the pre-bridge era (i.e. before 1956, if you don't count two short lived railroad bridges in 1885-1891 and 1892-1893 that were washed out and collapsed due to inferior design and construction) Halifax and Dartmouth were connected by passenger / vehicle ferries or a very long land toute around Bedford Basin.

Since 1956 and the opening of the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge [links to Wikipedia] the population of Dartmouth and the eastern side of the harbour has exploded, coupled with industrial and marcantile development to the point where a second bridge became necessary. With the A. Murray MacKay Bridge [Wikipedia link], predictably, as per the "if you build it they will come" adage, the trend continued and the population on the Dartmouth side continued to grow after the new bridge opened in 1970. Industrial and mercantile expansion accelerated too, and did not reduce usage of the bridges - only increasing the traffic between both sides of the harbour.

When a complete replacement of the span of the older Macdonald bridge took place from 2015 to 2017, the resulting traffic chaos inspired many to urge for a third crossing, which is still a topic for discussion, and maybe actual planning.

Recently we learned that two sections of the steel bridge deck of the MacKay bridge required urgent replacement due to fractures. This suddden discovery is a little worrying since the deck failure did not happen over night. The bridge has been closed for two consecutive weekends - during the busiest shopping days of the year - when weekend bridge traffic could be expected to be at its yearly peak. Two small sections of deck were to be replaced and paved over during Friday evening to early Monday mornings. Presumably the work had to be done before cold weather sets in.

The ensuing chaos and gridlock - (what would normally be a five munute crossing on the Macdonald bridge late Sunday morning stretched into half an hour.) The predictable "fender bender" at mid span occurred just before 12 noon November 26 when the directional flow of the centre lane was set to reverse from "to Dartmouth" to "from Dartmouth" irrespective of traffic demand. Police and fire response (due to spilled gasoline) was prompt and efficient, but could do little to alleviate the press of traffic. Fortunately the accident was a slow speed rear-ender and did not require closing the bridge altogether and there did not appear to be any injuries. Why eliminating tolls for the two weekends to speed traffic flow was not in the cards is a mystery.

The arrival this morning of the container ship NYK Remus, which had to pass beneath both bridges to reach the PSA Fairview Cove container terminal served as a reminder that planning for a new crossing is not a simple matter.

My photo was taken from the Africville Park boatramp. Built on grassed over construction debris and fill, with trees growing at random, it isn't much as parks go, but thanks to its name and the museum in the form of the orginal church, it can serve as a reminder that there was once a vibrant community there. It was destroyed to build the bridge approaches, with little thought given to the process.

As NYK Remus passes the Africville Park boat ramp, a construction crane is at work on replacing a section of bridge deck and the A. Murray MacKay bridge is closed to traffic for the second consecutive weekend.

NYK Remus is one of twelve ships of the Daedalus class, many of which call in Halifax regularly on a service operated by THE Alliance - a group of several independent shipping companies. This particular ship is on the AL5 service than runs between Europe and the Pacific coast of the US via the Panama Canal. It is a moderate size vessel (larger ships cannot squeeze under the bridges) of 55,487 gt, 65,981 dwt with a capacity of 4922 TEU (some sources say 4888 TEU) including 330 reefers. It was built in 2009 by Hyundai Samho.

Members of THE Alliance are Hapag-Loyd, HMM (former Hyundai Merchant Marine), Yang Ming, and Ocean Network Express (ONE - the amalagam of NYK, MOL and K-Line.) The ships on this route also call in Saint John, NB served by the newly formed CPKC rail, the arch competitor of CN Rail which serves Halifax.  These shipping alliances are under threat by the EU and the USA as they are seen by some to limit competition. One key EU policy that allows alliances or consortia, is set to expire in April 2024, and may Lead to reconfiguration of some of the lines serving Halifax, but is too early to tell how.


No comments:

Post a Comment