For many years, the only way to travel from Prince Edward Island (PEI) to New Brunswick was to take the ferry. But after decades of back-and-forth debate, PEI residents finally voted to build a bridge across the Northumberland Strait, connecting the two provinces by road and offering an alternative mode of travel for the local community.
While most bridge designs face some design challenges, the issues we faced during the construction of the Confederation Bridge were extensive. The Strait experiences complex tidal patterns that differ at each end, while its narrowest point is 13KM wide—quite a long distance for engineering a bridge. To make matter worse, the Strait is also covered in sea ice throughout the winter.
To minimize ice forces and facilitate the normal process of ice-out in the Strait, the team designed the bridge on 44 massive gravity piers. We spaced the piers to meet environmental requirements with minimal disruption to the strait floor. Most of the bridge was designed to sit 40M above water to accommodate ship traffic, and the entire structure was prefabricated on shore to allow year-round construction.
The bridge—now celebrating its 20th year of operation—provides a convenient alternative to the ferry and has helped connect Atlantic Canadian communities across the Northumberland Strait.