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Halifax bridges not reaching projected traffic volumes to warrant 3rd crossing

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WATCH ABOVE: A bridge or tunnel between Dartmouth and Halifax is not being considered because the necessary additional capacity projected in a 2008 report won’t happen any time soon. Steve Silva reports – Feb 2, 2016

A bridge or tunnel between Dartmouth and Halifax is not being considered because the necessary additional capacity projected in a 2008 report isn’t needed anytime soon.

“At this point in time, we’re relatively flat,” said Steve Snider, CEO for Halifax Harbour Bridges (HHB).

For the 2011-12 fiscal year, 33,991,037 trips were made on both the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge and the A. Murray MacKay Bridge. (That period includes the time when Halifax Transit, then known as Halifax Metro Transit, workers went on strike.)

For 2014-15, there were 32,501,577 trips.

“I think full capacity here with the existing structures is about 38 million,” said Snider.

The Cross Harbour Traffic Needs Assessment was published in March 2007.

“A new harbour crossing is not only inevitable, but desirable. Based on the results of our analysis additional cross-harbour capacity could be required as early as 2016 to accommodate planned growth as outlined in the HRM Regional Plan,” the report stated.

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Prepared for HHB, it brought up the idea of a tunnel or another bridge.

“From our perspective, at this point in time, it’s beyond the future that we can see,” said Snider regarding the idea.

The Big Lift, which is resulting in nightly closures of the Macdonald Bridge, is partially to blame for the decreased number of trips, he said.

“I think we’ve seen a softening of the economy. We’ve seen a couple of winters with some severe weather,” Snider added.

He said the focus is on maximizing the use of existing infrastructure before looking at those options, which could cost more than $1 billion.

One idea that will be looked at in the next few years is removing tollbooths altogether on the bridges and switching to cameras that record licence plates; the owner of the vehicle would then be billed.

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The option would be safer for employees, better for the environment by making cars not have to stop as much, and less expensive for HHB, Snider said.

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