New canal bridge welcomes vehicle and marine traffic

Photo by Adam Cooke After 81 years of crossing the St. Peter’s Canal via a one-lane swing bridge, motorists got their first taste of two-lane traffic along the historic span between the Bras d’Or Lake and the Atlantic Ocean last week, as the canal’s new two-lane bridge opened to vehicle and marine traffic on June 15.

ST. PETER’S: The face of this Richmond County community is now permanently changed, with the opening of a new two-lane swing bridge over the official link between the Bras d’Or Lake and the Atlantic Ocean.

  Vehicle traffic officially began crossing the new St. Peter’s Canal bridge’s two lanes on June 15, while marine traffic made its way through the canal locks the following day, roughly two weeks later than the traditional arrival of the canal’s marine traffic. These events coincided with the dismantling of the 81-year-old one-lane swing bridge that had previously served motorists and mariners making their way through St. Peter’s.

  “We’re kind of preparing for anything, but overall, we’ve met the target of getting everything open June 15,” Parks Canada asset manager Audrey Buchanan told  The Reporter  Monday morning.

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  “For the most part, I think the vehicle traffic is doing quite well, and they’ve also got the addition now that they’re not waiting on the [traffic] lights, [since] it’s no longer a one-lane bridge. So that should be a big improvement, as well.”

  Minor traffic delays are expected to continue through the summer at the canal site, as Parks Canada crews continue work on such items as the new bridge’s warning gates, landscaping, and a series of interpretive panels that signify such aspects of the region’s history and culture as the nearby Mi’kmaq community of Potlotek First Nation.

  “It’s a brand new bridge, so there will always be some learning curves,” said Buchanan, who added that Parks Canada still hopes to complete its work this summer and hold an official opening ceremony for the new bridge before September.

  “With the approach work, we’re still finalizing the little bits and pieces…We still have some final components of the bridge – the warning gates and items such as that are still being finalized and tested. So we do have a number of weeks of work left, and we’re trying to get those done as quickly as possible.”

  In the meantime, Parks Canada has completed its contribution to the new entrance to Battery Provincial Park, with the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal (DTIR) now overseeing this portion of the project, as well as a 6.6-kilometre stretch of road upgrades between the canal site and the community of Corbett’s Cove.

  “Our portion of Battery Park is done – we had done some of the rock work at the entrance, but the driveway and tying that into the road approach is all the Department of Transportation,” Buchanan explained.

  “Most of the work that you see going on is now being done by the Department of Transportation highway project, which is directly adjacent to our current limits.”

  For now, Buchanan and her Parks Canada colleagues are happy with the early stages of the canal bridge launch, which followed over a year of construction work and a contribution of just over $16 million from the federal and provincial governments.

  “We’re obviously terrifically happy,” Buchanan enthused.

  “This is a huge investment for the St. Peter’s operation…So we’re quite pleased – we didn’t have a lot of delays, so that’s even better.”