Truck parking at Confederation Bridge is adequate, industry says
December 1, 2011
BORDEN-CARLETON, P.E.I. -Is Confederation Bridge parking for trucks a major problem or a tempest on a turnpike? If you imbibe the CBC, you might think it's the former. How big the problem really is, however, depends on who you talk to in the...
BORDEN-CARLETON, P.E.I. -Is Confederation Bridge parking for trucks a major problem or a tempest on a turnpike? If you imbibe the CBC, you might think it’s the former. How big the problem really is, however, depends on who you talk to in the trucking industry.
According to an Oct. 6 CBC news story, truckers are avoiding a government-funded parking area on the P.E.I. side reserved for their use when the bridge is closed to them. The public broadcaster sent a reporter to the lot during a 36-hour storm closure and found only a couple of trucks using it. Not only that, but: “Truckers told CBC News it was too far away from restaurants and washrooms. They also can’t see when the bridge reopens,” reports read.
The report also noted that: “20 long-haul trucks were scattered in streets and parking lots around Borden-Carleton.” Sounds like a lot of roadside angst and potential traffic havoc.
The story revolves around weather-related closures of the bridge to big trucks when high winds make it unsafe to cross the 13-km artery, a trip that takes about 15 minutes normally.
According to Jean Marc Picard, executive director of the Atlantic Provinces Trucking Association, though, there isn’t much of a problem. “I talked to a few of my members, and a lot of them say it’s a non-issue,” he says. “Most of them say when the bridge is closed they just turn around and go home anyway.”
Besides, Picard says, it isn’t as if most of the closures catch the industry by surprise. “The company that manages the bridge sends out weather advisories, and all the companies have either e-mails or instant messages – and we put it on our Web site and send messages to our members, or they can call,” he says.
Not only that, local firms have gotten used to incorporating the closures into their operating plans, Picard says.
“It’s like going to Newfoundland,” he says. “It’s quite a ferry ride, but it’s just a fact of life.”
Picard admits that trucks arriving at the bridge from longer distances may be more affected by the closures, since they may not have access to up-to-date information, but considering the communications technology available these days, “Unless a sudden storm blows in, it’s very rare that a driver gets to the bridge and finds it shut down.”
As for the parking area in question, it appears it isn’t that far from civilization anyway, depending on how you define the word.
“They can use facilities next door,” Picard says, “and if they need a coffee or something they can go across the street to the Tim Horton’s. It’s just a five-minute walk.”
Picard admits the bridge isn’t visible from the parking area, but says the reason was logistical and that steps are being taken to help there, too.
“Obviously they needed to find some land that’s workable for everyone,” he says, noting there’s signage coming to notify drivers of when the bridge is open, “so it’s not necessarily that bad.”
On the plus side, Picard says, the parking area is a secure and safe place to put a truck.
“At the end of the day it addresses the concerns of having to leave your truck at the side of the road. I think it’s a good thing.
They (government) could have just put their heads in the sand and pretended there was no problem when the bridge is closed,” Picard points out.
To its credit, the CBC followed up the next day with a report quoting P.E.I. Transportation Minister Ron MacKinley as saying improvements (such as the signage Picard mentioned) are coming, and perhaps other services as well.
Meanwhile, Picard says if there’s a real issue over bridge parking, it’s on the New Brunswick side, where that province hasn’t seen fit to built such a parking area. Even there, however, he says it isn’t a particularly dire “strait.”
“Maybe we should be lobbying harder,” he admits, adding “we addressed it at one public consultation, but there are other issues that have been more pressing over the past year. It’s been on the back burner.”
Drivers on the mainland side do have a few areas into which they can squeeze, Picard says, if they know far enough in advance that the bridge is closed. “There are a few gas stations a couple of minutes from the bridge,” he says. “But it would be more convenient to have one right at the bridge with some facilities.”
However the parking situation is perceived and reported on, it appears the closures are a minor inconvenience at worst. Picard says they only happen a few times a year and don’t usually last long enough to cause a considerable kerfuffle.
“Obviously, if the bridge is closed four days in a row I can see that being an issue at some point,” he says. “But usually it’s 12 hours or so and it reopens again and everyone’s good to go.”