What has happened is that we have remained Islanders – Islanders who can come and go and move commodities to and from the province with ease.
Wednesday marked 20 years since the Confederation Bridge opened, it is difficult to imagine how we got along without it.
Travelling on the ferries was a pleasant experience, when the weather was nice or you were not in a hurry. Otherwise you were travelling according to the ferry schedule and often speeding to catch the boat.
Gone are the lineups waiting to board the ferries, which could be hours in the busy tourism season, then the frustration of being among those left in the parking lot when the ferry filled up and sailed away from the dock.
The Confederation Bridge has brought many benefits to P.E.I. Besides the obvious convenience of travelling across a bridge in a few minutes,
there is the economic advantage of getting products to market on the mainland in a timely fashion.
As a St. Nicholas beef farmer, John MacDonald, pointed out, it was difficult to compete, especially in agriculture and fisheries sectors, with other provinces that could get their products to markets faster.
It works the other way as well, making it easier to transport goods to our Island.
The bridge has also boosted tourism. The number of visitors took a big jump in 1997, the year the bridge opened, as expected. But tourism has continued to grow from the pre-bridge era.
Figures released in 1996 indicated 740,000 visitors came to the Island. The year of its opening, visitation climbed to 1,238,000. These numbers rose to 1,840,000 in 2001.
Our Confederation Bridge is an engineering marvel and remains an attraction in itself. Many still come to travel across the bridge.
The easy access has not led to an increase in crime, as some skeptics warned. It has not had a detrimental impact on the fishery in the Strait.
There was a lot of trepidation about the bridge, but it was, in large part, a fear of the unknown.
Jim Larkin, who led the pro-bridge faction or Islanders for a Better Tomorrow, believes the ‘No’ side played an important role in the process.
“Because of their opposition and the messages they were carrying, we’ve ended up with a better product, I think, than we would have had without them. That’s the very nature of democracy,” he said.
He believes expressed opposition led to research on the impact ice might have on the bridge, which resulted in the addition of ice cones on the piers.
Love it or hate it, the 12.9-km structure has changed the way Islanders travel and it’s become essential to our lives. Now if it was only free to cross.