Halifax Harbour Bridges

report to the community 2016-17

A message from
the Chairman & CEO

about the big lift

The Big Lift:
A once-in-a-lifetime project

After five years of planning and almost three years of construction, the Macdonald Bridge Suspended Spans Redecking Project, also known as the Big Lift, is coming to a close. While the overnight closures will end late fall 2017, the project will be complete in the Spring of 2018.

The entire suspended spans of the bridge have been replaced: the road deck, floor beams, vertical hangers, stiffening trusses. The only original components of the suspended spans are the two towers, the cable bents, the anchors and the main cables. The main cables have been wrapped in a waterproof membrane to prepare for installing a dehumidification system to stop future corrosion of the main cable. While the bridge was safe, the project needed to be done to ensure the long term safety of the bridge. The Macdonald Bridge is now expected to be safe for at least another 75 years.


  • 2010
    Board approval of the Macdonald Bridge suspended span redecking project
  • 2011
    Preliminary engineering
  • 2013december
    Engineering design finalized
  • 2014june
    Contractor selected
  • 2015march
    Onsite work begins
  • 2015june
    Sidewalk and bike lane close
  • 2015october
    First deck segment installed
  • 2017february
    Last deck segment installed
  • 2017june
    Sidewalk and bike lane reopen
  • 2017december
    Full Bridge Overnight
    closures end
  • 2018spring
    Project complete

Shuttle Service

image description

After two years of being closed we were thrilled to welcome back walkers and cyclists to the sidewalk and bike lane of the Macdonald Bridge.

The sidewalk and bike lane had to be removed from the suspended spans of the bridge in advance of deck segment replacement. Because the Macdonald Bridge is the only active transportation route across the Halifax harbour, HHB felt a duty to provide an alternate way to cross the harbour for those people who would normally walk or bike. HHB purchased three 17 passenger buses and three bike trailers that can carry 12 bikes each to operate a 24/7 shuttle service with a pickup and drop off location on both sides of the bridge.

From the time the sidewalk and bike lane closed at the end of June 2015 until it reopened the end of June 2017 the shuttle carried 244,570 pedestrians and 110,759 cyclists. This represents approximately 50 per cent the number of people who would have normally walked or biked across the bridge.

DId you know?

interesting facts about halifax harbour bridges

The average number
of crossings on both bridges on a weekday is


also be used on the Cobequid Pass and Confederation Bridge.

You can use MACPASS to pay for short and long-term parking in the parkade at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport.

Did you know MACPASS is less expensive than cash?

$.80 for MACPASS versus $1.00 cash

100 percent

of your toll dollars are used to maintain and operate the Macdonald and MacKay Bridges.

HHB does not receive any government funding and is maintained and operated through the revenues generated by the tolls.

HHB is a provincial government agency that reports to Nova Scotia Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal.

There is no cost to get a MACPASS. The transponder is free – you only pay for the tolls.

Having trouble keeping your MACPASS stuck to your windshield?

You can get free replacement Velcro at any open toll booth on the Macdonald or MacKay Bridge.

The Angus L. Macdonald Bridge

opened in 1955. It was a two lane bridge until 1999 when a third reversible lane was added.

The Macdonald Bridge also has a dedicated pedestrian walk-way and bike way.

Workplace Safety

Safety is the cornerstone of everything we do at HHB – that includes the safety of the travelling public, employees and those who work on or around the bridges.

Each year HHB’s safety program is audited to determine the overall performance of its occupational health and safety system (program), at a given point in time. In the most recent audit HHB scored 96 per cent, down slightly from 98 per cent in 2016 and on par with 96 percent in 2015. We are proud of the strong results we receive year after year yet always strive for continuous improvement.

This year the HHB employees received a workplace safety recognition award from the Workers Compensation Board of Nova Scotia. The award is in recognition of HHB as a leader and safety champion committed to preventing workplace injuries and to promoting an early and safe return to work.


Other Projects


The scope of operations is to provide public safety, security, traffic management tolling and emergency response operations in conjunction with intergovernmental agencies.

In 2016/17 operations enhanced coordination with local and regional policing and emergency response agencies and continued to support the Big Lift by operating the shuttle service and providing support to security and traffic management activities.

Operations also continues to monitor and manage site safety & security.


The engineering department ensures the bridges are well maintained and structurally sound to provide safe, efficient and reliable crossings.

Over the last several years the bearings and concrete foundations of the Macdonald Bridge anchor piers have been replaced. Monitoring of the orthotropic steel deck of the MacKay Bridge continues.

In the first quarter of 2018 HHB will have the results of a feasibility study that will give direction about the future of the MacKay Bridge (opened in 1970). Fatigue monitoring of the MacKay Bridge road deck in 2014 indicates that the existing road deck has approximately 15-25 years before it reaches "end of life"The bridge is safe and will continue to be safe. As part of our long term planning HHB will determine the options of either rehabilitating the MacKay Bridge or building a new bridge and removing the existing one when the time comes.


The scope of the maintenance department is to conduct seasonal, structural and general maintenance on all HHB assets including buildings, bridges and grounds.

The engineering and maintenance departments are responsible for the annual inspection of both bridges. In addition to the traditional visual inspections, advancements in technology have allowed the maintenance and engineering departments to access hard to reach places

underdeck visual
inspection vehicle
by using drones and a vehicle called the underdeck visual inspection vehicle.
Also in conjunction with engineering HHB is developing a long term plan for how we will incorporate advances in corrosion protection for the longevity of the bridges. This will be a multi-year project that will be piloted on the approach spans of the Macdonald Bridge beginning in 2019.

Tolling & it

Ensuring proper design, architecture, maintenance and administration of all computing systems is the focus of tolling and information technology at HHB.

In the last two years HHB has invested significantly to increase the security of its systems and minimize the chance of privacy breaches.

HHB is developing a multi-year plan for the next generation of tolling technology.

Due to aging infrastructure several automatic coin machines were replaced in the last fiscal year.

By the numbers

community focus

A few of the organizations featured this year include:

  • The Arthritis Society of Nova Scotia
  • The Jazz Festival
  • Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia
  • Dartmouth General Hospital Foundation
  • Tall Ships Festival

HHB also creates floral logo beds on the Halifax side of the MacKay Bridge. This year we celebrated Canada 150 and commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion.


After a two-year hiatus because of the Big Lift, HHB welcomed back the one-mile race across the bridge, MACPASS Miles. This fun event has four races: boys, girls, women and men. We also welcomed back Bridgewalk – a tradition that goes back at least 30 years. It’s an opportunity to walk across the road deck and enjoy free food and entertainment.


In 2016 a group of HHB employees participated in helping to build a house for Habitat for Humanity. They spent the day at installing windows at the Spryfield location.


Financial Overview

Financial Highlights – Statement of Comprehensive Income
(In thousands of dollars) 2017 Budget March 31, 2017 Actual March 31, 2016 Actual
Revenue 30,797 31,222 31,407
Operating & administration 6,741 6,916 6,601
Maintenance 2,682 2,651 2,837
Amortization of property
and equipment
7,015 5,880 6,156
Loss on disposal - 223 357
Total Expenses: 16,438 15,670 15,951
Net Finance Costs 2,261 1,046 896
Comprehensive Income 12,098 14,506 14,560
HHB’s 2016-2017 audited financial statements are found here

HHB derives 100% of its Revenue from tolls and fees collected from the Angus L. Macdonald and A. Murray MacKay Bridges. Revenue in fiscal 2017 was budgeted to decline from 2016 based on a forecasted drop in traffic of 1.0% due to the ongoing closures of the Macdonald Bridge for the Big Lift project. Actual results were better than forecast as traffic declined only 0.38% versus the prior year resulting in toll revenue exceeding budget although slightly below the prior year. Apart from bridge closures for construction, the single biggest impact on toll revenues is adverse winter weather during the Monday to Friday workweek.

Operating and administrative (O&A) expenses include the costs to staff the toll facilities, bridge patrol and MacPass customer service. Costs also include maintaining toll equipment, information technology platforms as well as accounting and treasury functions, public relations and professional fees. In fiscal 2017, HHB increased service levels in several areas that lead to higher O&A expenses versus the prior year. These included an in-house tow truck service to improve clearance times on the bridges and a new IT position focused on network security. The 2017 O&A costs exceeded budget due to higher levels of contract staff required to support operations during the Big Lift and increased insurance costs.

The Maintenance expenses include costs of maintaining the structural integrity of the bridges and upkeep of buildings and equipment. Costs include snow removal, corrosion protection through painting, consulting engineering fees and operational costs of buildings, the vehicle fleet and properties. In fiscal 2017 HHB benefitted with lower costs from a restructured paint program that focused only on the MacKay bridge while the Macdonald was under construction for the Big Lift. The milder winter of 2016, compared to 2015, also contributed to lower maintenance costs in fiscal 2017 versus the prior year. Utility costs were lower with savings realized from LED lights installed in the prior year and reduced lighting on the Macdonald bridge during the Big Lift.

Amortization of property plant and equipment is a non-cash charge that represents the cost of HHB’s fixed assets over their expected useful life. Amortization costs were lower in fiscal 2017 than budgeted because of the delay in completing the installation of new deck segments on the Big Lift. The significant capital costs of the new deck segments did not have amortization charged until installation was completed which reduced amortization in fiscal 2017 compared to the budget amount. Amortization costs were lower than the prior year because of accelerated charges taken in prior years to recognize the decommissioning of significant portions of the Macdonald Bridge prior to the start of the Big Lift project.

Net Finance costs consist of interest costs for HHB’s long term debt offset by interest income earned on cash held in operating and loan reserve accounts. The determination of substantial completion of the Big Lift project for accounting purposes was linked to the completion of new deck segment installation. Interest costs related to the financing of the Big Lift are recorded as an expense after the installation was complete. The budget assumed that substantial completion would be mid-way through fiscal 2017 but the actual completion of deck segment replacement wasn’t until February, resulting in materially lower net finance costs in fiscal 2017 than budgeted.

For accounting purposes, the Big Lift project was deemed substantially complete in late fiscal 2017. In fiscal 2018 there will be a full year of Big Lift related amortization and finance expense recorded on the Statement of Comprehensive Income, lowering it by $2.8 million and $4.3 million respectively each year. The extra expenses will reduce the reported Comprehensive Income to an estimated $7 million – 8 million per year instead of the $14 million plus recorded the past two years.

Financial Highlights – Statement of Financial Position
(In thousands of dollars) March 31, 2017 March 31, 2016 March 31, 2015
Current Assets 47,326 90,609 57,377
Restricted Funds and
Property Plant and Equipment
263,021 207,309 221,982
Total Assets 310,347 297,918 279,359
Current Liabilities 24,494 20,195 13,728
Long term debt
and other liabilities
172,777 179,183 181,621
Equity 113,076 98,570 84,010
Total Liabilities and Equity 310,347 297,918 279,359
HHB’s 2016-2017 audited financial statements are found here

The Big Lift project continued to have a significant impact on the statement of financial position. As the project progressed, current assets dropped in fiscal 2017 as deposits on hand at the end of fiscal 2016 were used to finance the increase in property plant and equipment. Overall, total assets continued to increase in Fiscal 2017 as HHB also invested a portion of current year toll revenues to fund the Big Lift as well as other capital projects.

Total debt and liabilities declined in fiscal 2017 as HHB continued to pay down debt using toll revenue proceeds. HHB financed the Big Lift project with a $160 million loan that closed in fiscal 2015 and no additional debt is expected to be needed to complete the project. The Big Lift loan is included in long term debt with repayments scheduled to begin following the completion of the project. Equity has increased in fiscal 2017 with positive comprehensive income recorded for the year. Approximately $14 million of the equity balance is recorded as a reserve for restricted assets, comprised of funds set aside under various loan agreement terms.

HHB source of funds 2016-17


HHB USE of funds 2016-17

Data for above charts from Statement of Cash Flows, part of HHB’s 2016-2017 audited financial statement located here

Corporate Structure


To provide safe, efficient and reliable cross-harbour transportation infrastructure in a cost effective manner.


To be recognized as world class for providing innovative transportation solutions.

The following values are the essential principles that guide Halifax Harbour Bridges as an organization:
A fundamental focus and shared responsibility.
The protection and maintenance of our bridges.
Customer service.
Focused on excellence.
Open and professional communications.
Engagement and support of our communities.
Act with integrity, credibility and accountability.
Focused on employee development and participation.
Competent, energetic and focused.
Build on each other’s strengths and help each other grow.

Board of commissioners

Provincial Appointees:
  • Wayne Mason (Chair)
  • Vicki Harnish (Vice Chair)
  • Claude Carter
  • Bill Book
  • Doug Skinner
Municipal Appointees:
  • Laurel Clark
  • David Hendsbee, Councillor
  • Timothy Olive
  • Waye Mason, HRM Councillor

Strategic Goals

Quality and Standards

Improve safety and efficiency in maintenance and operations.

Desired outcomes
  • An injury free workplace
  • Maximized operational capacity of the two bridges
  • Extended life of the bridges
  • Improved public safety
Strategies to achieve desired outcomes
  • Decrease the frequency and impact of incidents that delay bridge traffic
  • Adopt industry best practices for bridge upgrades, maintenance and operations
  • Conduct annual inspections and repairs as required
  • Grow the safety culture for employees, contractors and bridge users
  • Be environmentally responsible in construction, operations and maintenance activities
  • Be considered expert in tolling and long span bridges
Recognition of Value

Provide an excellent customer experience.

Desired outcomes
  • Increased customer satisfaction with bridge operations
  • Expanded use of MACPASS Plus for parking
  • Improved access and egress for cyclists
  • Reduced delays on bridges
Strategies to achieve desired outcomes
  • Focus organizational efforts on issues identified in customer satisfaction surveys.
  • Provide timely traveler information
  • Increase MACPASS distribution and payment options
  • Work with partner organizations to promote active transportation on the Macdonald Bridge
  • Enhanced information flow to customers and stakeholders.

Demonstrate financial responsibility through effective deployment of our capital and operating resources.

Desired outcomes
  • Revenues from operations are sufficient to fund all operational and capital requirements
  • A long term capital plan that addresses needs in a timely and effective manner
  • Efficient operational, administrative, maintenance and toll collection activities
  • A detailed and current, long term financial plan
Strategies to achieve desired outcomes
  • Continuous refinement of future cash flow forecasting
  • Enhanced multi-year capital forecasting including cost estimates
  • Monitor spending against benchmark data.
  • Enhanced budgeting processes that focus on automation and improved accuracy

Create a workplace culture where employees have an opportunity to grow and participate.

Desired outcomes
  • Visible leadership at all levels of the organization
  • Employees are engaged with the organization’s goals
Strategies to achieve desired outcomes
  • Promote training and development
  • Provide opportunities for staff to develop new skills
  • Measure employee satisfaction and engagement
  • Manage performance
  • Recognize individual and team excellence
  • Develop innovation teams