skip to content

Confederation Bridge: Canada's first P3 to open

Location: Prince Edward Island – New Brunswick

Status: In operation since 1997

Value of Partnership: $1.5B

Type of P3: Design-Build-Finance-Maintain-Operate

Handback/P3 Agreement Ends: 2032

When Prince Edward Island joined Canada in 1873 the federal government made a promise to maintain year round transportation across the Northumberland Strait to the mainland. The government maintained ferry service but over time the cost substantially escalated— from a $20,000 annual subsidy in 1887 to a subsidy ranging from $24 million to $32 million by the mid-1970s.

In 1985-1986 the Government of Canada received three unsolicited proposals from private consortia for a fixed link. Recognizing the significant capital costs of a bridge and not wanting to pay more than the existing ferry service subsidy the government decided to enter into a contract with the private sector for financing and operations.


  • SCDI had to design a solution with a long lifespan over a straight that was ice-covered for a third of the year and sustained a commercial fishery
  • Design and construction plans had to deal with meeting a stringent time deadline, manufacturing huge components, transporting and placing those components in turbulent water, and doing it all in a technically and environmentally sound manner.


  • Key objectives for the federal government were that the project be technically sound, cost certain and date certain, and with all completion risks assumed by the private sector
  • SCDI was required to provide an extensive security package in case of failure to complete the project including a $200 million performance bond, $20 million labour and material payment bond; $35 million defects assurance bond; and a separate letter of credit for $73 million to secure against cost overruns

Confederation Bridge was the first major infrastructure project completed in Canada using a public-private partnership


  • At 12.9-kilometres long the Confederation Bridge is the longest bridge in the world crossing ice-covered water
  • Canada’s engineering community named Confederation Bridge one of Canada’s five most significant engineering achievements of the 20th century. The others were the pacemaker, the Canadarm, the IMAX motion picture system and the Transcontinental Railway Rogers Pass Tunnel
  • The bridge was designed to exceed safety standards of a typical highway bridge and have a service life of 100 years. Engineers incorporated a number of safety features into the bridge design including curves to ensure drivers remain attentive, and to reduce the potential for accidents that happen more often on straight highways or bridges; a road surface made of a special long-lasting bituminous mixture that minimizes vehicle spray during wet weather; 1.1 metre-high concrete barriers walls that minimize visual distraction and serve as a windbreaker; and more than 7,000 drain ports to allow for the runoff of rainwater and melting snow and ice
  • At peak production 2,079 craft workers and 415 staff were employed in building the bridge
  • The bridge has 22 closed-circuit television cameras whose footage is displayed across multiple screens in the Bridge Control Centre which is monitored 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to allow for safety-conscious traffic control
  • A wide range of computer-facilitated traffic control options including standard traffic signals, changeable speed limit signs and changeable message boards allow Bridge Control personnel to respond immediately to fluctuating road and traffic conditions.