The Angus L. Macdonald Bridge, known locally as "the old bridge", is a suspension bridge crossing Halifax Harbour in Nova Scotia, Canada; it opened on April 2, 1955.
The bridge is one of two suspension bridges linking the Halifax Peninsula to Dartmouth in the Halifax Regional Municipality.
It is named after the former premier of Nova Scotia, Angus L. Macdonald, who had died in 1954 and had been instrumental in having the bridge built. The bridge was designed by Philip Louis Pratley, one of Canada's foremost long-span bridge designers who had also been responsible for the Lions Gate Bridge in Vancouver. The bridges have a similar design, which is most notable in the towers. The contractor was Dominion Bridge Company Ltd.
The bridge regularly experiences traffic congestion during rush hours as a result of the structure's proximity to the downtown cores of Halifax and Dartmouth, as well as its narrow width. Large commercial vehicles are not permitted to cross and must use the wider MacKay Bridge to the northwest. Public transit buses are allowed to cross and the bridge links several Halifax Transit routes. In 2014/15 the average number of vehicle crossings per month was 1,183,095.
As of 2015 the toll charge to cross for regular passenger vehicles is $1.00 cash or $0.80 with the MACPASS electronic toll system (60¢ tokens were once used but are no longer accepted as of May 1, 2008). The original toll, when the Macdonald opened in 1955, was 40 cents plus 5 cents per passenger. There was also a separate toll for trucks, cyclists, pedestrians, motorcycles and horses/rider.
Construction of the bridge took place between 1952 and 1955. Caissons were used for underwater work. Five workers died falling from catwalks during construction. The bridge opened on April 2, 1955, and originally cost $11.5 million.
A modernization project was undertaken in the late 1990s and completed in 1999 which saw the original two lanes and one sidewalk and utility corridor expanded to three lanes, with the centre lane being reversible to assist with traffic flow during peak periods.
To reduce the weight of the roadway, asphalt and concrete were removed and special steel plating (an orthotropic deck) was used in its place. This deck is 35% lighter than the old one. New pedestrian and bicycle lanes were attached to the outside of the structure to replace the original sidewalks.
External aesthetic lights were added during the modernisation project which saw the bridge's towers lit for the first time on a continuous basis every evening from sunset until midnight. Critics derided the effort as a waste of electricity, given Halifax Harbour's frequent foggy weather conditions. The lighting was estimated by the bridge authority to cost in excess of $50,000 a year in 1999.
The Angus L. Macdonald Bridge has attracted media attention as the spot where well known environmental activist Tooker Gomberg is believed to have committed suicide on March 3, 2004.
In June 2004 the Department of National Defence filed a lawsuit against the Bridge Commission alleging that snow, ice, bottles and other debris rained down on HMC Dockyard below, endangering staff. The DND first sought $527,000 in damages for its efforts to protect employees, an amount that was later increased to $1.04 million. The lawsuit claimed that the issue had been exacerbated when chain link fencing on the bridge had been removed during the 1999 modernization. In July 2007, as part of the settlement, barriers were installed along 22% of the pedestrian lane at the bridge's western end (Halifax abutment) to prevent suicide attempts and protect navy staff below.
Initially, the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission was concerned that the structure was not capable of handling the additional weight of installing safety barriers along the entire span of the bridge. Subsequent computer modeling eliminated the previous concerns, and on May 13, 2009 the general manager and CEO of the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission, Steve Snider, announced that a tender for the long-called for extension of the barriers along the full length of the bridge would be issued in June 2009. As of March 2010 the remaining sections of the safety barrier have been installed, so that the bridge now has safety barriers along 100% of its pedestrian walkways.
In 2015 another major renovation of the bridge started which will see the temporary removal of the pedway and bike lanes. At a cost of $150 million, every piece of steel that makes up the suspended spans, except the towers and two main cables, are to be replaced; the non-suspended approach spans will remain. New vertical cables are required due to the relocation of the stiffening trusses from above deck level to below deck level. Construction will mostly occur overnight with the bridge open to traffic during the day, but many full-weekend closures will be necessary. After the Lion's Gate Bridge, this will be only the second time that a suspension bridge will have its suspended spans completely replaced while continuing to allow regular traffic flow during the daytime. Principal engineering work for the project is being done by the same firm that managed the similar project on the Lion's Gate Bridge.
The Bridge Commission is operating a free, 24-hour-a-day shuttle service during construction to accommodate the bridge's pedestrian and bicycle users. It operates on a load-and-go basis during the weekday morning and afternoon rush hours, and on a 30-minute schedule at all other times of the day and overnight.
Halifax Transit will continue to run its regularly scheduled conventional bus service across the Macdonald bridge, except during times when the bridge is scheduled to be closed. While the bridge is scheduled to be closed, Halifax Transit operates a shuttle service in lieu of its conventional bridge-crossing routes. Halifax Transit's shuttle service only operates during that portion of the agency's normal service hours which overlap with a scheduled closure of the bridge. It crosses on the Macdonald Bridge if it happens to remain open, and takes the MacKay Bridge otherwise. The fare is the same as a conventional Halifax Transit bus route. In the event of extra closures outside the regularly scheduled overnight periods, all of Halifax Transit's conventional routes, which would normally cross the Macdonald bridge, will instead be detoured to the MacKay Bridge. In addition, the agency has increased ferry service between the Alderney and Halifax terminals to a 15-minute interval until midnight from Monday to Friday, and has extended Sunday service on a 30-minute interval until midnight.