PORT HASTINGS: After touching base with the Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, Inverness MLA Allan MacMaster is hoping frequent delays at the Canso Causeway will be a thing of the past.

“If people are delayed at the Causeway, and they’re trying to make it to a flight out of Halifax or a medical appointment in Halifax, and they are behind schedule, they could be taking chances when they get on the highway,” MacMaster told The Reporter last week.

MacMaster noted there are several other problems related to the Causeway causing backed-up traffic. The work of emergency responders can be affected, people can be late for work, late for the Newfoundland ferry, tourism can be undermined, and so can the work of truckers.

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The summer of 2017 was notorious for delays at the Causeway. The biggest reason for the delays, MacMaster said, was new technology used to open and close the swing bridge.

“It seems the delays aren’t as frequent now, or at least I’m not hearing about it if they are. In the summertime, it was frequent,” he said. “When the shipping resumes in the spring, I’m hoping all the issues are fixed.”

MacMaster questioned the minister Geoff MacLellan during budget estimates in a recent sitting of legislature. The minister told MacMaster that a special team was put together to focus on “getting rid of the bugs in the new system.”

While technology seems to be at the heart of the issue, MacMaster had made other suggestions about the Causeway earlier in the year. He said limiting the amount of time each day for recreational boats to cross through the Causeway might be a good idea. However, conversations since then have made him think that might not be needed.

“I’ve heard from the Coast Guard that the crossings this year weren’t more than in other years, and that suggests what was happening this summer was less about recreational boating traffic and more about the actual operation of the swing bridge,” he said, noting that it still might be a good idea to nail down set times for recreational boats to pass.

“Every piece has to be considered,” he said.

MacMaster said he’s heard a great deal from his constituents about the matter, especially during the summer. An interesting nuance about the problem is that a great deal of the backed-up traffic isn’t even looking to cross the Causeway. The rotary at the Causeway also leads to Route 19, Port Hawkesbury, and Trans-Canada Highway 105 heading toward Whycocomagh.

“One of the more practical suggestions was to add a lane on the way to the rotary, in the case of Route 19,” he said. “In the case of Port Hastings, there are two lanes there but you’d have to do some kind of traffic control before the two lanes merge into one, coming into the rotary.

“The same is true coming from Whycocomagh into the rotary, but the number one issue that needs to be solved is problems with the swing bridge.”