Halifax harbour bridges | 2015-16 Report to the community


Halifax harbour bridges Halifax harbour bridges Halifax harbour bridges Halifax harbour bridges Halifax harbour bridges Halifax harbour bridges Halifax harbour bridges Halifax harbour bridges Halifax harbour bridges Halifax harbour bridges Halifax harbour bridges Halifax harbour bridges Halifax harbour bridges Halifax harbour bridges Halifax harbour bridges

A message from

The Chair & CEO


On behalf of the board of commissioners and the staff of Halifax Harbour Bridges (HHB) we are pleased to introduce the 2015/16 Report to the Community.

As stewards of the bridges that span Halifax harbour, our job is to ensure safe, efficient and reliable cross harbour transportation infrastructure at an appropriate cost.

Over the last 18 months activity has been even more exciting as we continue with the Macdonald Bridge suspended spans deck replacement project – also known as the Big Lift.

For obvious reasons the Big Lift has been a significant focus for HHB’s operations. While planning started in 2010, it has been in full swing since March 2015 when on-site construction began. HHB employees and the contractor, American Bridge Canada Company, continue to work hard to ensure this project is completed safely, on time and on budget.

In addition to learning more about the Big Lift you will also read about other significant projects that have been completed while operating under strong and prudent financial management.

Finally, we’d like to thank you, the community, for your understanding throughout the Big Lift. It has not been without disruption. This is a once-in-a-lifetime project and the engagement, support and patience you have shown is greatly appreciated. Once complete the community will have a bridge that will continue to be safe for generations to come.

  • Wayne F. Mason Wayne F. Mason,
  • Steve Snider Steve Snider

about the big lift

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The Big Lift represents the replacement of the suspended spans on the Macdonald Bridge. The bridge is safe but after 60 years the deck is reaching the end of it’s functional life. This includes the road deck, floor beams, stiffening trusses and suspender ropes. It also includes dehumidifying the main cable. Once complete the only original components on the suspended spans structure will be the two towers, the cable bents and the main cables. The project will extend the life of the bridge by approximately 75 years.

The planning of the project began in 2010 with the engineering design phase followed by issuing a tender for a general contractor. On site construction began in March 2015 with overnight closures to reinforce the bridge in preparation of replacing deck segments. The sidewalk and bike lane were removed the end of June 2015 and the first of 46 deck segments was replaced October 2015.

Raise the bridge profile Raise the bridge profile
Project Completion
Fall 2017
Project Completion Fall 2017
See The Big Lift in Action
on our YouTube Page
See The Big Lift in Action on our YouTube Page
suspender ropes
replace suspender ropes
replace final
replace final 16 segments

What’s left

The contractor, American Bridge Canada Company (ABCC), is in the process of replacing the final segments on the Halifax side span. This process of getting the segments to the bridge changes because the work takes place over land and not water and the segments are 10 metres long instead of 20 metres.

For current updates visit hdbc.ca

Complete deck
segment replacement
Complete deck segment replacement
Open the bike lane
and sidewalk
Open the bike lane and sidewalk
Replace expansion joints Replace expansion joints
Final paving on
Halifax side span
Final paving on Halifax side span
dehumidify The main
cables of the bridge
(orange cable)
dehumidify The main cables of the bridge (orange cable)

Local Content

The contractor for the Big Lift is American Bridge Canada Company (ABCC). ABCC is a construction company with over 114 years’ experience building and rehabilitating complex bridge structures worldwide. More than 75% of the value of the project is expected to be invested in Nova Scotia, over 80% in Eastern Canada, and 98% in North America

Local major organizations involved include:

  • Cahill Electrical
  • Cherubini Metalworks
  • Cumberland Paving
  • Harbourside Engineering
  • Ironworkers Local 752
  • Marid Industries

other local companies


  • Consulting
  • CBCL Engineering
  • M&R Engineering
  • Lengkeek Vessel Engineering
  • McInnes Cooper
  • Sani Engineering
  • Scotia Weather Services
  • SDMM surveying
  • Thompson Conn Surveying

Quality Control/Quality assurance

  • Killick
  • Fulcrum Marine Survey
  • Team QC


  • Eagle Beach
  • G3 Galvanizing
  • KTM
  • MacFarlands Rentals
  • MacGregors Industrial Group
  • Marid
  • M&J Total Transport & Rigging
  • On Guard Traffic Control
  • QBC
  • RKO
  • RMI Marine

Subcontractors with head office or based in New Brunswick

  • CFM
  • Irving Cranes
  • Jamac
  • L&A Metalworks

Local offices of firms outside region

  • AMEC - Dartmouth office
  • Black & McDonald - Dartmouth office
  • COWI - Halifax office
  • EnGlobe – Dartmouth office
  • Hertz Rentals
  • London Offshore Consultants – Dartmouth office
  • Marsh Canada - Halifax office
  • SNC - Halifax Office
  • Stantec - Dartmouth Office
  • United Rentals

Shuttle service

The sidewalk and bike lane closed the end of June 2015. Since the Macdonald Bridge is the only active transportation way to cross the harbour, HHB provides a 24/7 shuttle for people who would normally walk or cycle across the bridge.

From July 1 2015 to July 1 2016, there were almost 163,000 crossings using the Big Lift shuttle service – that’s 446 per day.

Go to hdbc.ca/shuttle-service to find out more information.

The sidewalk and bike lane panels removed from the bridge were given to trails associations, ATV associations and HRM to be used in trails around the province. Several are already in place.

Bridge closures what to expect in 2017

When all deck segments are replaced full weekend closures will mostly disappear. Weekend closures are required to replace the four expansion joints and complete final paving on the Halifax side span but they will be much reduced from 2016.

Overnight closures will continue until the fall of 2017 but will be reduced to five nights a week - Sunday through Thursday.

Did you know?

Interesting facts about Halifax Harbour Bridges

  • The average number of crossings on both bridges on a weekday is 100,000.
  • Did you know MACPASS is less expensive than cash? $.80 for MACPASS versus $1.00 cash. For more information on the tolls, go to macpass.com
  • MACPASS can also be used on the Cobequid Pass and Confederation Bridge? Contact each authority to open an account.
  • 100 per cent 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 Infra- structure Renewal.
  • 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.
  • The A. Murray MacKay Bridge opened in 1970.
  • You can use MACPASS to pay for short and long-term parking in the parkade at the Halifax Stanfield International Airport?


Safety of the travelling public, safety of the bridges and the safety of employees and everyone who works on or around the bridges is the cornerstone of everything we do at HHB.

We have not had a time loss incident in over five years and our WCB cost ratio is 82.19% lower than our rate groups cost ratio resulting in a 24.68% merit (HHB’s industry group is public transportation).

We are WCB Safety Certified and in 2016 scored 98% on WCB’s Certificate of Recognition (COR) audit of our health and safety systems. We are not concerned about reaching 100 percent – we just want to be 100 percent injury-free.

measuring success

Monitoring progress against goals is critical for continuous improvement.
The following are the outcomes as stated in the 2015/16 business plan.

OUTCOME metrics results
Nova Scotians have access to safe, reliable, cost-effective transportation infrastructure to cross Halifax Harbour. Customer satisfaction ratings regarding maintenance, safety, service and value for tolls paid. To be measured through regular customer surveys. Customer service
Safety: 82%
Value for tolls paid: 71%
Maintenance: 63%
Service: 56%
Number of repair projects completed by HHB in current year as a percent of the total recommendations contained in the annual inspection report on the physical condition of bridge structures.

84% recommendations from the annual inspection are complete (15 out of 18 items).

16% is on-hold until the Big Lift is complete.

HHB achieves its mandate through the effective deployment of capital and operating resources
  1. Operating Budget
  2. Capital Budget
  3. External credit rating
In fiscal 2015-2016, HHB continued to be completely self-funded from tolls and user fees.
  1. Comprehensive net income exceeded budget. The financial overview section of this report provides greater detail.
  2. Including the Big Lift project, 86% of the capital budget was spent in 2015-2016. Several smaller capital projects were deferred to future years due to the Big Lift.
  3. Standard & Poor’s (S&P) confirmed HHB’s credit as A+ / Stable.

by the


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other projects

While the Big Lift has been the significant focus for HHB other significant projects were executed in 2015/16 to ensure the safe and efficient crossings for bridge customers.

Each year the two bridges undergo a rigorous inspection to identify maintenance and engineering requirements and to ensure items from previous inspections are addressed. The annual inspection report forms the basis of the improvement and maintenance plan.

In 2015/16 we replaced seven sets of bearings as part of a multi-year project to replace all the approach span bearings on the Macdonald Bridge.

HHB is developing a long term plan for how we will plan for changes to the existing bridge paint program that will incorporate advances in corrosion prevention. This will be a multi-year project.

The quicker we can respond and clear an incident the less disruption to bridge users. One tactic we implemented in 2015/16 was to introduce a dedicated tow truck service to support bridge operations. This tow truck is immediately available to clear a vehicle from the bridge.

Delivering effective and efficient toll collection and secure technology systems is critical to HHB. In 2015/16 we replaced approximately 40 outdated computer servers using virtualization technology for enhanced redundancy capabilities.

We increased system security through tokenization and secure card processing.

HHB replaced the Macdonald Bridge centre lane control hardware and the overhead lane control gantries have been replaced as part of the Big Lift.

The current equipment for cash collection is nearing the end of its functional life. A long term tolling strategy is being developed to guide HHB’s approach in rehabilitating toll equipment and the toll plazas.

HHB is in the process of rehabilitating the anchor piers on both bridges. Below are photos of work on the Halifax cable bent pier at the MacKay Bridge.

other projects

other projects

Financial Highlights

Statement of Comprehensive Income

(In thousands of dollars) March 31, 2016 Actual 2016 Budget March 31, 2015 Actual
Revenue 31,407 31,268 31,583
Operating & administration 6,601 7,272 7,056
Maintenance 2,837 3,082 3,293
Amortization of property and equipment 6,156 8,292 7,793
Loss on disposal 357 - -
Total Expenses 15,951 18,646 18,533
Operating Income 15,456 12,622 13,050
Net Finance Costs 896 1,015 4,017
Comprehensive Income 14,560 11,607 9,033

HHB’s 2015-2016 audited financial statements are found at www.hdbc.ca/publications

HHB derives 100% of its revenue from tolls collected on the two bridges and user fees. Total revenue in fiscal 2016 remained relatively stable despite the overnight closures on the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge required by the Big Lift project. The decline in revenue from the prior year was largely due to the elimination of the water pipe and utility cables from the Macdonald Bridge from which HHB had earned other rate revenue.

Financial Highlights

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. Fiscal 2016 O&A expenses were lower than 2015 primarily due to reduced consulting and legal fees as the prior year saw completion of several significant projects that did not repeat in 2016. The 2016 O&A expenses came in under budget due to; wage savings as a budgeted headcount went unfilled, lower professional fees as a possible contingency did not materialize and the timing of certain budgeted repairs were deferred.

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. Fiscal 2016 maintenance costs were lower than the prior year primarily due to reduced labour costs following a restructured paint program initiated due to the Big Lift project. These savings were partially offset by increased road surface repair costs incurred in the first part of fiscal 2016 due to damage from the harsh winter of fiscal 2015.

Financial Highlights

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 was lower in fiscal 2016 because of accelerated charges taken in prior years including fiscal 2015 to recognize the decommissioning of significant portions of the Macdonald Bridge prior to the start of the Big Lift project. The 2016 budget over-estimated the expected amortization expense.

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. Net finance costs were lower in fiscal 2016 compared to fiscal 2015 as HHB repaid a significant amount of debt in 2015 to save on future interest costs. Further, the 2015 early debt repayment required the payment of a market rate adjustment that increased net finance costs in 2015. Net finance costs were below budget in fiscal 2016 due to higher cash balances than forecast as the Big Lift project billings were initially lower than budgeted.

Financial Highlights

Statement of Financial Position

(In thousands of dollars) March 31, 2016 March 31, 2015 March 31, 2014
Current Assets 90,609 57,377 9,759
Restricted Funds and Property Plant and Equipment 207,309 221,982 114,303
Total Assets 297,918 279,359 124,062
Current Liabilities 20,195 13,728 9,836
Long term debt and other liabilities 179,183 181,621 39,249
Equity 98,570 84,010 74,977
Total Liabilities and Equity 297,918 279,359 124,062

HHB’s 2015-2016 audited financial statements are found at www.hdbc.ca/publications

The impact of the Big Lift on HHB can be seen in changes to the statement of financial position over the last three years as assets and liabilities have increased significantly.

Total assets jumped in fiscal 2015 with both the start of on-site construction activity and the completion of a $160 million loan to finance the project. The loan proceeds inflated the total assets. During the course of the project, loan proceeds move from a reserve account to the property plant and equipment account. In Fiscal 2016, total assets increased further as HHB also invested a portion of current year toll revenues to fund the Big Lift.

Similarly, total liabilities and equity have increased in fiscal 2015 and 2016 due to the Big Lift project. The $160 million loan is included in long term debt with repayments scheduled to begin following the completion of the project. The increase in current liabilities is also directly attributable to the Big Lift project and the timing of payments.

Financial Highlights


When the Big Lift project is substantially completed, for accounting purposes, there will be significant impact to HHB’s Statement of Comprehensive Income. Future amortization costs will increase by an estimated $2.8 million per year initially and future finance costs will increase an estimated $4.3m per year initially. In fiscal 2016 the Big Lift is in construction phase with related finance charges recorded on HHB’s Statement of Financial Position as part of the cost of that asset.

Substantial completion of the Big Lift, for accounting purposes, is estimated as the point where all deck segments are installed and in use along with the sidewalk and bikeway. Currently, substantial completion is forecast to be achieved near the end of fiscal 2017.


The use of funds chart provides a breakdown of how that cash was spent during the year. The Big Lift is evident in that 79% of all spending was for capital investment which is largely driven by the project. Other uses of cash are to pay for the operations, administration costs and maintenance costs of the bridges. Cash was also required for debt repayment and to fund reserve accounts according to loan agreements.

The source of funds chart illustrates how HHB in fiscal 2016 has primarily used a combination of toll revenues and proceeds from long term debt to source cash requirements for the year. The use of long term debt has been matched to the long term asset that results from the new suspended spand of the Macdonald Bridge with a design life of seventy-five years.



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.

core values:

The following values are the essential principles that guide Halifax Harbour Bridges as an organization:

  • SAFETy. Fundamental focus and shared responsibility.
  • Stewardship. Protection and maintenance of our bridges.
  • Customer Service. Focused on excellence.
  • Respect. Open and professional communications.
  • Community. Engagement and support of our communities.
  • Integrity. Act with credibility and accountability.
  • Engagement. Focus on employee development and participation.
  • Leadership. Competent, energetic and focused.
  • Teamwork. Build on each other’s strengths and help each other grow.

board of



  • Wayne Mason (Chair) Wayne Mason
  • Vicki Harnish (Vice Chair) Vicki Harnish
    (Vice Chair)
  • Claude Carter Claude Carter
  • Bill Book Bill Book
  • Doug Skinner Doug Skinner


  • board01 Laurel Clark
  • board01 David Hendsbee,
  • board01 Timothy Olive

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.

Fiscal sustainability

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

Leadership in the workplace

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

Get In


Download the free app or view
the weekly schedule at thebiglift.ca

Call 902.406.5438 (LIFT)
Email thebiglift@hdbc.ns.ca