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Major Phase of 'Big Lift' in Halifax Complete

Monday, March 6, 2017

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A big part of the “Big Lift” in Halifax is complete, marking a temporary end to weekend closures and putting the project into the homestretch.

Workers from the American Bridge Canada Company spent the last two years replacing the 46 segments of the nearly mile-long Macdonald Bridge—one of two Halifax Harbour bridges—mostly overnight and on weekends, allowing motorists to use the bridge for their daily commutes through the week.

Lars Plougmann, CC-BY-SA 2.0, via Flickr

The repairs should extend the bridge’s life for at least another 75 years.

This specific kind of redecking process on a suspension bridge has only been done once before, on the Lion’s Gate Bridge in Vancouver, more than a decade ago.

The Project

"People have described this as a once-in-a-lifetime kind of project," said Alison MacDonald of Halifax Harbour Bridges. “It's an engineering feat, no doubt about it. We are essentially taking the bridge apart every weekend and then putting it back together for people to drive over the next morning."

The process of revamping the deck consisted of one panel getting replaced every three or four working nights. A lifting gantry was positioned on the suspender ropes, and then an existing panel was lowered to a barge in the harbor on the Dartmouth side. On the Halifax side, the bridge deck panels were replaced over land and brought in by truck.

The deck process was supposed to be completed in December 2016, but work slipped behind schedule several times due to weather conditions. The overall completion of the project is still slated for Fall 2017.

Doug MacDougall, business manager for Ironworkers Local 752, told CBC News that it was a job well done.

“This job went smooth and everybody who started there finished there and there were no lives lost," he said. "This job was incident free and that's a fantastic thing."

The next phase of the “Big Lift” will be the completion of the new sidewalk and bike lane, which includes welding the joints between segments, installing the pedestrian and bake line around the towers and applying wearing surface where the segment join and installing barriers.

After that, the remaining milestones include replacing the suspender ropes, finishing paving the Halifax side span, replacing expansion joints and dehumidifying the main cables.

Facts and History

The cost of the project was initially $205 million, but after schedule changes increased to $207 million. The repairs should extend the bridge’s life for at least another 75 years.

The Angus L. Macdonald Bridge opened in 1955 and was named after former Nova Scotia Premier Angus Lewis Macdonald. The bridge was converted from a two-lane to a three-lane plus pedestrian walkway and bicycle lane in 1999. The center lane is reversible and switches direction at noon each day. There are approximately 48,000 crossings daily. For more information on the “Big Lift,” visit


Tagged categories: Bridges; Construction; Infrastructure; Transportation

Comment from Silas Dogwood, (3/6/2017, 11:02 AM)

Nice to see a project that provides a safe and quality outcome.

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