FAQs

**Last updated – June 23, 2017

46 of 46 segments have been replaced marking a major milestone in the Big Lift project.

For information regarding work that has been going on since the last segment replacement, or information on what’s left to come, click here.

For weekly closure information (updated each Monday) click here.

For weekend closure information (updated each weekend), click here.

Have a question that’s not listed below? Just ask! Email us thebiglift@hdbc.ns.ca, tweet us (@BigLiftHFX and @HHBridges), or visit us on Facebook (Halifax Harbour Bridges).

If you want to stay on top of closure information, scroll down to see all the ways you can stay informed.

 

Revised Schedule FAQ’s

When will the deck segment replacement be complete? 
Deck segment replacement was complete late February 2017.

How far behind schedule is the Big Lift?
Originally we planned to have all deck segments replaced by the fall 2016. The accelerated schedule will result in all 46 segments being replaced by late January, early February. The overall project is still scheduled to be complete by the fall 2017.

When will the bridge be closed?
The Macdonald Bridge continues to close 7:00pm – 5:30am Sunday through Thursday. There are four weekend closures needed through July and August to install the four expansion joints.

How does this change affect the overall budget?
In 2010, six years ago, HHB forecasted this project would cost $205 million. With this accelerated schedule, HHB is forecasting the final budget to be $207 million, within one percent of the original forecast.

Who pays for the Big Lift?
The Big Lift project is funded by tolls.

Will HHB require a toll increase?
No. The increase that took effect in 2011 (taking cash from $.75 to $1 and MACPASS from $.60 to $.70) and in 2012 (taking MACPASS from $.70 to $.80) was implemented to fund the Big Lift.

When will the sidewalk and bike lane reopen?
The sidewalk and bike lane are reopened June 22, 2017. They continue to close when the road deck is closed. The HHB shuttle service operates during these closures.

General Big Lift FAQ’s

 

What is The Big Lift?

Beginning in mid 2015 the entire suspended structure of the Macdonald Bridge is being replaced. The work will be done mostly with overnight and several weekend bridge closures with bridge open to vehicular traffic most days. Unfortunately, to complete The Big Lift, the bike lane and sidewalk must be temporarily removed.

The Big Lift includes replacement of the road deck, floor beams, stiffening trusses and suspender ropes on the suspended spans (2,500 ft of the overall 4,418 ft length) of the Macdonald Bridge. Once complete, much of the bridge infrastructure will be new, leaving only the towers, main cables and anchorages on the suspended spans as original.

While the bridge will be raised 2.1 metres, the Big Lift project itself is not being done to raise the bridge for harbour traffic. See next question.

Why is The Big Lift needed now?

The bridge remains safe but after 60 years the deck is wearing out and needs to be replaced. The Big Lift will extend the life of the bridge and reduce maintenance.

Once complete, much of the bridge infrastructure will be new, leaving the original towers, main cables and anchorages on the suspended spans.

Wasn’t the deck replaced when the third lane was added?

Some may assume the suspended spans road deck was replaced when the third lane was added, but this is not the case. We kept the old deck (25 ft wide) and replaced the old sidewalk and ductway (5ft wide each) with new road deck to create three traffic lanes. We added the bike lane and sidewalk on the outside.

During the third lane project we knew the suspended spans would have to be replaced in the subsequent 12-15 years and as such the project was put in the long term planning. We have reached the point where the deck of the suspended spans must be replaced.

The bridge remains safe but after 60 years the deck is wearing out and needs to be replaced. The Big Lift will extend the life of the bridge and reduce maintenance.

Will you be raising the profile of the bridge?

Once the 46 deck segments are replaced, the shipping clearance will be raised by approximately 2.1 metres. The hangers on the bridge will be replaced and at that time the bridge will be raised in increments. While large post-Panamax are able to successfully navigate the bridges currently, the opportunity to raise the height as part of the overall redecking project is part of a prudent long-term planning strategy to ensure Halifax Harbour and Bedford Basin continue to accommodate a wide range of vessels.

Please note, The Big Lift project is not being done for this purpose. The project is being undertaken because the suspended spans are 60 years old and must be replaced in order to continue using the bridge.

When will The Big Lift begin?

The engineering work has been ongoing since 2010. In March 2015 overnight closures (Sunday to Thursday 7pm until 5:30am) of the bridge began. Friday closures were also added. These closures provide time for the contractor to ensure that the existing road deck is strengthened before the segments are replaced, and complete additional work as needed. The sidewalk and bike lane were removed at the end of June and the first of 46 segments was replaced in October 2015.

How much will The Big Lift cost?

The construction cost is estimated at $150 million. The full project cost is $205 million. Edited April 2016: With the newly announced accelerated schedule, the full project cost is projected to be $207, within 1 percent of the original forecasted budget.

What types of sound can we expect during the project?

The work will be done 20 hours per day, which means that to take full advantage of the closure to traffic, substantial construction work will be done overnight. Work will also take place on weekends, which means there will be times when people who live around the bridges hear construction sounds.  The level of sound people hear will be affected by many things in the environment – wind, rain, air pressure and lots of other factors.  HHB will communicate the nightly work that is planned to the public. HHB commissioned a sound study in 2012 and the results were presented during neighbourhood meetings in February 2015. Link here to find the presentation on the sound study

Will the bridge be closed to complete the work?

The Macdonald Bridge is very important to the transportation network in Halifax and the province. The Big Lift is being conducted largely at night and on weekends to minimize impacts to transportation.

The bridge will remain open during weekdays to vehicular traffic.

The bridge will close six nights a week (Sunday to Friday) from 7:00 pm until 5:30 am and approximately 12 full weekend closures will be needed over an 18 month period. Closing the Macdonald for 18 months straight is not an option.

Updated April 2016: With the newly announced accelerated schedule, the Macdonald will be closed most weekends, replacing two segments a weekend, until all 46 segments are replaced.

How will the work be done?

Starting near the Dartmouth shore the bridge deck panels (in either 20 or 10 metre lengths) will be replaced overnight. There are 46 deck segments to be replaced.

A lifting gantry will be positioned on the suspender ropes, and the existing panel will be lowered to a barge in the harbour. A new panel will be lifted into position in the same manner. Weather, particularly wind, will be a concern for lowering and raising panels.

On the Halifax side the bridge deck panels will be replaced in 10 m lengths over land because they will be brought in by truck rather than on a barge.

Where the removal and installation work is complicated at the cable bents and towers, the work will be done with weekend closures.

Has a project like The Big Lift ever been done before?

This is only the second time the suspended span of a suspension bridge has been replaced at night and open during the day in the world. The first time was on the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver in the late 1990s.

The Lions Gate Bridge is the sister bridge to the Macdonald Bridge, also designed by P.L. Pratley. HHB is working with the same bridge engineering firm, Buckland and Taylor, as was used on the Lions Gate redecking project. The same contractor, American Bridge Canada Co., will be used on this project. HHB will benefit from this shared experience.

While this project has been done once before, it’s the first time it’s ever been done in a climate like ours.

What are the major milestones for The Big Lift?

Five night a week bridge closures begin March 1. Six night a week closures begin summer 2015. The sidewalk and bike lane were removed the end of June 2015 and the first deck segment was replaced in October. There are 46 deck segments and it will take a year to complete the installation. The sidewalk and bike lane will reopen daily in December 2016, and fully reopen about three months later.

How is The Big Lift funded?

The project is being paid for entirely through toll revenue. The project is being financed through a repayable loan with the province of Nova Scotia.  We have been working hard for four years already to ensure this project is delivered on time, and on budget.

Will there be another toll increase?

No further toll increases are planned to fund The Big Lift.

Why does the sidewalk and bike lane need to be removed prior to the start of The Big Lift?

There are several reasons, but the key reason is safety. The new deck is much lighter than the existing deck. To carry out The Big Lift the loads on the existing bridge deck must be reduced to account for construction equipment and temporary connections at the construction face.

This is necessary to safely execute The Big Lift.

A new sidewalk and bike lane are added as the new segments are installed and will reopen when all the segments have been installed.

Are there changes to the bus and ferry schedules/routes?

Yes. You can find updated changes to both bus and ferry schedules and routes on the Metro Transit website, or by calling 311.

How will you accommodate active transportation during The Big Lift?

HHB recognizes the important role the Macdonald Bridge plays in active transportation across Halifax harbour, and will provide a 24/7 shuttle service to accommodate active transportation. This service will be free of charge to the users.

The ongoing shuttle service will begin Sunday June 28th, when the sidewalk and bike lane are removed. HHB will operate three shuttle buses that can accommodate 17 people per shuttle plus 12-14 bikes. The shuttles are wheelchair accessible and will be able to transport most types of bikes.

More information, and a shuttle schedule can be found here.

Why didn’t you just build a new bridge, and tear down the old when complete?

Due to the infrastructure on each side of the Macdonald Bridge, this was not a viable option.

Why don’t you add another lane while doing this work?

There is no space or infrastructure for additional traffic on either side of the bridge, in Halifax or Dartmouth.

Why didn’t you just close the bridge and do the work in half the time?

The two bridges are major roadways when it comes to rush hour traffic between Halifax and Dartmouth. The city, and emergency services, would not be able to handle the congestion caused by only having one bridge.

Will the same project be done on the MacKay?

Yes, in several years the same work will have to be done to the MacKay. Planning was done around timing of these two projects to ensure several years between the two. It may be possible, due to the location of the MacKay, to build a new bridge alongside it, while keeping the MacKay open to traffic. That is yet to be determined.

Will there be more late openings?

Since March, there have been two late openings due to work related to The Big Lift. To avoid this happening in the future, HHB is working closely with the contractor to ensure that the project goes ahead with as little disruption as possible. However, with a project of this size and scope, we would like to remind users that the Macdonald Bridge will remain a construction zone for the entirety of the project, and safety will always be the number one concern before opening the bridge to users.

Once complete, this project will extend the life of the Macdonald Bridge for generations to come.

Why is there a lane closure during the day?

There is always work happening on the bridge in preparation for the next segment replacement. While the majority of work is being done under the bridge during the day, a lane is needed to transport materials and workers back and forth as needed.

Lane closures are not permanent but there will still be occasional lane closures throughout the life of the project, while the Macdonald Bridge remains a construction zone.

Is the project still on schedule?

Yes, while there is a learning curve (this is only the second time this project has been done, and the first time on the this bridge), we do anticipate completing the deck segment replacements as planned by fall 2016 (updated: deck segment replacement was complete the end of February, 2017). HHB is committed to having the walk/bike lane open daily by December 2016 (updated – the sidewalk and bike lane are scheduled to reopen the end of June 2017). This is a priority. In the one year plan for segment replacements, issues like weather, have been built in.

What about that “bump”?

HHB apologizes for the disruption that the traffic plate initially caused. Analysis and paving was completed within 48 hours to help ease the size and shape of the “bump”. While the “bump” will never entirely be gone, it will become easier to traverse as the segments are replaced. For the duration of the project, HHB would like to remind users that the Macdonald Bridge is considered a construction zone, and to proceed with care.

Do you work closely with Halifax Transit/emergency services/HRM, etc.?

HHB works very closely with Halifax Transit, HRM, emergency services and other stakeholders to communicate closure schedules, answer questions, etc. If you are looking for Halifax Transit scheduling information during the Big Lift, please visit their website.

How do I know if the bridge is open or closed?

There are several ways you can learn more about the project, and find the status of a closure and/or upcoming closures. These are all updated up-to-the-minute:
• Visit: www.thebiglift.ca
• Call 902-406-5438 (LIFT) for updates on closures or construction information and to leave a message or call 511.
• Download the app for real time and upcoming closure information. Also sends a notification of last minute changes to the  schedule.
• E-mail thebiglift@hdbc.ns.ca
• Follow us on Twitter at (@HHBridges and @BigLiftHFX), on Instagram (@BigLiftHFX), on Google+ (Halifax Harbour Bridges), on YouTube (Halifax Harbour Bridges) or on Facebook (Halifax Harbour Bridges)

**Electronic signs are located at:

Highway 102 Miller lake inbound

Highway 118 inbound

Barrington street outbound

Highway 101 inbound

Highway 102 inbound

either side of the MacKay bridge.

**Message boards are located at either end of the Macdonald Bridge with updated closure times.