Halifax Harbour Bridges wants vehicles to stop getting stuck in its toll booths

Halifax Harbour Bridges is looking for ways to keep its old toll booths from putting the squeeze on oversized vehicles and trucks, including the creation of a safety campaign reminding drivers to pay attention to their surroundings.

In the last 12 months, there have been 14 incidents of vehicles getting stuck in the booth lanes on the Dartmouth side of the MacKay Bridge. 

The most recent incident happened Wednesday, when the trailer of a Pete’s Fine Food truck became sandwiched under the toll plaza’s concrete canopy

Last month, in an effort to reduce the growing number of sticky incidents, the bridge commission launched an online campaign directed at the approximately 105,000 drivers who cross the two harbour bridges each day.

“The campaign encourages drivers to slow down, focus on the road and to plan ahead among other things,” said Alison MacDonald, communications manager at Halifax Harbour Bridges.

Paying attention

MacDonald said she believes incidents of vehicles getting stuck are caused by a “combination of increased speed, distracted driving and perhaps in the increase of traffic volume in recent years.”

Unlike the MacKay, the Macdonald Bridge doesn’t have the same problem, she noted, because its toll plaza “is at an intersection, so people are coming at a much lower speed.”

The MacKay’s toll plaza hasn’t changed since the bridge opened in 1970, but there has always been commercial lanes at the far end dedicated for large vehicles and trucks.

“They are taller and wider and there is signage there, and we are looking at the signs to see if in the short term there is something we can do to make it clear to people,” said MacDonald.

Overhead canopies were built to help protect workers and hold equipment, such as antennas and readers for the tolling system.

But large vehicles that crash into the canopies can cause serious damage to the structure, creating a dangerous situation for everyone in the area.

“If we were to build a toll plaza today they would probably look different,” said MacDonald. “But we are looking at longer term options as well to look at what can be done to the toll plazas to eliminate this being an issue.”

Whenever a vehicle gets stuck in the lanes, commissionaires are sent to attend to the driver, secure the scene, set up secondary lanes — and pass along some helpful advice.

“Whenever there is a commissionaire, they will pass a little postcard to the driver that talks about some of the ways they can help make their way across the bridge problem free,” said MacDonald.

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