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Halifax Harbour Bridges

Big Lift Communications and Engagement Plan

Halifax Harbour Bridges

Award Category: 
Customer Service & Marketing Outreach
Award Year: 


Halifax Harbour Bridges is a provincial Crown corporation that manages and operates the Macdonald and MacKay Bridges in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The two tolled suspension bridges join Halifax and Dartmouth, with combined annual crossings of approximately 33 million. The Macdonald Bridge accounts for approximately 40 percent of the region’s daily commuter traffic, and its sidewalk and bike lane provide the only active transportation route across the Halifax Harbour. The Big Lift was HHB’s largest capital project since the MacKay Bridge opened in 1970, extending the life of the Macdonald Bridge by at least 75 years and reducing maintenance costs. Construction began in March 2015 and concludes in 2018.

The Macdonald Bridge was operating safely after 63 years in service, but the deck was wearing out. The Big Lift replaced the infrastructure on the suspended spans of the bridge including the road deck, floor beams, stiffening trusses and suspender ropes on the suspended spans of the Macdonald Bridge. The $205-million project budget was covered by a provincial government loan that will be repaid entirely with toll revenue. To manage a unique, tremendously complex, and disruptive project, HHB orchestrated the removal and replacement of 46 deck segments while keeping the bridge open to traffic most of the time. The work was completed with overnight and weekend bridge closures over a two-year period. It was only the second time in the world that suspended spans of a suspension bridge have been replaced while keeping the facility in operation. The HHB communications team of two developed a comprehensive strategy to educate and engage all stakeholders.


To ensure Stakeholders are educated about the project and how it will impact them and for affected stakeholders to believe their perspective has been taken into consideration during the planning phase of the project. The public understands this project is necessary to extend the life of the Macdonald Bridge and for the long term safety of the traveling public.


The Big Lift needed to be done to extend the life of the bridge, not to add capacity. This made communications more difficult because customers were not gaining anything other than a safer bridge. The communications motto of the project was to “show don’t tell” by sharing stories, videos and photos so people could understand the engineering wonder that this was and to communicate early and often the reality of the project: it would be disruptive but necessary to extend the life of the bridge. A final survey to see if the objectives were accomplished will be completed in the latter part of 2018. The overall sentiment from the community is that the project wasn’t as disruptive as initially anticipated and that it was a fascinating project to watch unfold. This project provided an opportunity to accomplish an overall communications goal for HHB which is to be seen as the safe, efficient, forward-thinking manager of Halifax's key transportation infrastructure assets.