Confederation Bridge manager concerned about number of accidents

Mike Carson
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Bridge officials revisiting contingency plan in the event link to the mainland closed for extended period

A passerby, Andrew White, captured this photo of the transport truck that smashed into a street sweeping vehicle on the Confederation Bridge Monday, Jan. 13, 2014 and ended up into the cement guardrail.

BORDEN-CARLETON – An accident this week that closed down the Confederation Bridge for nearly four hours is the fifth such accident in the past year and a half.

That fact troubles Strait Crossing Bridge Limited general manager Michel Le Chasseur.

The manner in which the accident happened is a concern for the general manager.

“There haven’t been a whole lot of accidents (since the bridge opened in 1997) but what is bothersome for me is in the last year-and-a-half, there have been five, which is quite a lot, and all five were of similar nature,” he said.

“It really bothers me because you wonder, if you’re focused on your driving you would have seen that truck. There’s some kind of distraction somewhere and I don’t have the solution today but it is an issue.”

Le Chasseur said the accident on Monday, when a tractor-trailer ran into the back of a bridge sweeper, could have been worse.

He said there was not an escort vehicle travelling behind the sweeper.

“The sweeper truck is equipped with all kinds of bells and whistles,” Le Chasseur said. “If there was an escort vehicle, it would be a pickup truck and the pickup truck would have been smashed to smithereens. What saved our man was the fact that the sweep truck, the bin was full. That added quite a lot of weight to the truck and that provided the cushion so that things didn’t end up being worse than they were.”

Crews are examining the bridge to see if any damage resulted from the accident.

“We haven’t finished our inspection yet so that answer is not known yet,” Le Chasseur said. "We have to go inside and we have to check both sides of the barrier wall but right now, we don’t have an answer for that.”

Le Chasseur said there is a contingency plan in place should the bridge be out of commission for any great length of time but added that plan is 16 years old and is now under review.

“We have to look at the services available,” he said. “The first service that everybody would think of is the existing ferry service and perhaps an additional one (in Borden-Carleton) that we would have to put in place. There are two airports here, Summerside and Charlottetown.

“This plan was developed in 1997,” Le Chasseur said. “We’re 16 years into it. Life has changed a lot on P.E.I. in the way people do business. Even the expectations – back in 1997 waiting for 90 minutes to cross was part of life. Today, if I offer you that scenario at the bridge you’d lose patience after two minutes. The expectations have changed, the way we do business has changed.”

He said with the advances in transportation to and from the province there are no inventories of goods on P.E.I. anymore.

“I remember a couple of Christmases ago the bridge was closed to trucks for 50 hours and all of a sudden there was no more bread, no more flour, no more this, that and the other thing at the stores,” Le Chasseur said. “That makes you think that there is no more bread on P.E.I. after 50 hours. So, you start thinking about petrol products, pharmaceutical products, you name it. It is a complex issue, this contingency plan and the response to it.”

He said it is a good sign that the plan is being revisited.

“It is quite timely that people are poking at this and so are the people behind the plan,” Le Chasseur said. “The plan involves the federal government, provincial government ourselves and all of the emergency response units all over the Island and New Brunswick.

"Since life has changed significantly and we’ve done some exercises involving all of the services and what we see that was good in 1997 might not be applicable today,” he said. “And some things that didn’t exist in '97 are good today. We have to adjust this plan and think of maximizing the tools that we have. The wheel has started to turn. We’re into it now.”

Geographic location: BORDEN-CARLETON, Summerside, Charlottetown Iceland New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • Garrett MacKay
    January 16, 2014 - 18:56

    I have to agree with" S.Call". Think about it people, the accident destroyed a transport truck and a full (or nearly full) sweeper. both of which are extremely heavy machines. If there had been an escort vehicle there most likely, would have been a death. The sweeper is equiped with a large number of flashing orange lights and while driving you can see several kilometers ahead: an escort vehicle would just have been destroyed. If you can't see a huge road sweeper with flashing lights, then why would you see a half-ton truck?

  • Romeo
    January 16, 2014 - 10:34

    There should be a "bump truck" in place any time work is being done on the bridge. If workers are working on the bridge witout one then they are just as much to blame for their own death or injury as the person who hits them.

    • Pete
      January 16, 2014 - 11:13

      Does Strait Crossing Inc. have a "bump truck"? If they don't, how can the workers themselves be held accountable?

  • Pete
    January 16, 2014 - 08:41

    "There’s some kind of distraction somewhere" ... I'd lay money on that distraction being spelled "t-e-x-t-i-n-g".

  • don
    January 16, 2014 - 04:41

    maybe this reply will get in. one thing to do is clamp down on speeders and that includes ALL staff everyone. unless they are an emergency vehicle. i'm sure the RCMP will post a radar on both sides. and set one up at night late you might be surprise who they will get. and have a NO tolerance..

    • Doud
      January 16, 2014 - 16:34

      And how many times have you been overtaken on the bridge by speeders. ????

  • Regular Joe
    Regular Joe
    January 15, 2014 - 21:07

    Is the bridge not suposed to be monitored by staff . Why were there no warning vehicles accompanying this Sweeper . This is standred practice with all slow moving vehicles on the bridge is it not ,same with any maintenance vehicle .

  • Dundas Sue
    January 15, 2014 - 19:58

    You cant always rely on the bridge warning systems. I have seen "slow down for workers notices" and saw no workers during my crossing and the reverse is also true: no signs but workers on the bridge. People who cross the bridge every day or every other day may become complacent; we nede to find ways to keep them on their toes but also to make sure the warning system is 100% accurate. This kind of accident is unacceptable.

    • candrayo
      January 15, 2014 - 21:35

      As a frequent traveller on the bridge over the last 10 years, I can tell you that warnings are out for just about every little thing imaginable….it was so frustrating! Combine that with the attitude of some of the workers who act like THEY are providing a service for us and we should just be grateful to have a bridge, not to mention the shuttle service…(UGH)….so glad I no longer work off Island and have to deal with the silly way this bridge is looked after at times. Truckers must find it just as frustrating at times dealing with the bridge and all the idiosyncrasies that come with having a link to the mainland that is supposed to make their lives easier! My short 15 minute ride was always the longest of my 2 and a half hour drive each time, and most frustrating!

    • S.Call
      January 15, 2014 - 21:45

      The sweeper is big, brightly marked with flashing lights and travels on the shoulder of the bridge with ample room to go by it and meet other traffic, I've done it. Plus you can see it from a LONG way off. I'd like to know how 2 people traveling in a truck did not see it and still hit it. All the warnings and alarms won't help if you just don't pay attention to what you're doing.