He was given that right Saturday (Aug. 11) and a police escort after his name was randomly chosen from a list of entrants in a childrens’ recyclable boat-building challenge organized as part of the bridge opening ceremony.
While many on hand for the celebration saw the bridge as a symbolic milestone in the cleanup of the Sydney tar ponds, his mom is simply glad to have a safe and efficient roadway available again.
“I think it is going to make my life a whole lot easier. We have been waiting for this to open for a long time,” said Vanessa Rolls, who lives near the new bridge.
“There will be no more making a left turn onto Prince Street, which can be scary.”
The bridge now links Sydney’s downtown and northend to the Sydney Ports Access Road. It also offers motorists another route in and out of the downtown core.
Initially, it was built in the 1920s to offer access to the former steel plant. It was closed in the early 1990s, reopened at the end of 2006 and then closed again March 23, 2009.
Donnie Burke, project manager of the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency, said the agency has been inundated with calls about the bridge opening.
“They want to get through, especially with all the construction going on in the city,” Burke said. “It’s a good all-around benefit to the community.”
Burke also saw the bridge opening as an important day in the overall project. He hopes the public will see it that way, too.
“I know a lot of people had over time peaked through the fences to try to see what was going on here but this actually gives you a bird’s-eye view.”
The bridge, he said, lets people see the work as it moves closer to a 2014 completion date.
“You can see the capping in progress. You can see what the finished project looks like, and if you look down on the horizon you can actually see where we are still finishing up the last phase. It’s a monumental day.”
In January 2007, the federal and provincial governments committed $400 million to ensure the cleanup is completed by March 31, 2014.
The $3.5-million bridge aspect of the project, completed by local contractor Joneljim Concrete Construction, includes two traffic lanes with sidewalks on both sides, as well as decorative railings with green, low-energy light standards and lamps.
“For our project team the bridge represents many significant accomplishments,” said Kevin MacDonald, CEO of the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency.
“There was the treatment of the sediment in the former tar ponds, building the channel you see today and building bridge abutments for this ferry bridge.”
MacDonald also spoke of the rerouting of ocean water, the engineered capping of the site and other accomplishments.
“For our neighbouring communities we want to thank you for your patience and support. Without it we wouldn’t be here today.”
Besides the ceremonial ribbon cutting and the boat race, residents on hand were treated to music and refreshments.
Guest speakers included federal regional director general for Public Works Canada Rob Wright, provincial Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Minister Maurice Smith and Alastair MacLeod, chair of the Citizens Liaison Committee for the tar ponds cleanup.
Membertou elder Katie McEwan also said a prayer and performed a ceremonial smudging of the bridge during the ceremony.
Saturday’s opening allowed access only to pedestrians and bikers. Vehicular traffic can begin crossing today (Aug. 13).
Cape Breton Post