STRAIT AREA: Officials are pointing fingers following a two-hour traffic jam at the Canso Causeway late last week.

On August 23, traffic entering and leaving Cape Breton was initially delayed, then eventually backed up as far as the Town of Port Hawkesbury as a result of work being done by a Nova Scotia Power (NSP) contractor, as well as the Canso Canal opening for two vessels.

NSP spokesperson Tiffany Chase told The Reporter that insulators on one of the transmission lines along the Canso Causeway were being replaced using a mobile crane.

“A contractor working on our behalf set up a traffic control plan used in the past at the Causeway, which maintained one lane of traffic and brief stops in either direction,” Chase explained. “Unfortunately, the bridge at the Causeway opened while this work was underway to allow a vessel to go through, which compounded the traffic delays and stopped travel in both directions for a period of time.”

The communications branch of the Maritimes Region of Fisheries and Oceans Canada confirmed that two vessels went through the Canso Canal on August 23. The first vessel was at 10:10 a.m., and the canal was open for 15 minutes during this time. The second vessel, a small pleasure craft, transited at 2:45 p.m., and the canal was open for 10 minutes.

Chase said NSP works to minimize traffic impacts but acknowledged the contractor did not receive the proper permits.

“Our contractor and project manager spoke to transportation department staff and they advised a permit should be requested for this traffic control set-up at the Causeway in future,” Chase noted. “We will ensure our contractors and our own personnel seek permits for this location going forward and provide advance notice to the travelling public.”

Although the province did not comment on why the Canal was open during the delay, spokesperson Marla MacInnis said work was delayed until the proper permits were approved.

“When a company is conducting work that could impact motorists on the Canso Causeway, a permit from the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal [DTIR] must be obtained and a traffic control plan must be in place,” MacInnis explained on August 23. “A permit for work today was not issued and Nova Scotia Power has been advised to stop work until permits have been properly obtained.”

When the work is rescheduled, Chase added that NSP will speak to transportation officials to ensure it meets its requirements and provides advance notice to the public so they can be aware of potential travel delays in the area.