Bridging the Gap: The History of Transportation on PEI

When I was five years old my father went to work on the Confederation Bridge.  I was an imaginative child, but I had a hard time understanding what this meant.  My father talked about the sheer size of the project, the problems created by crossing ice-covered water, and the fact that nothing like it had ever been attempted before.  Despite his tales, however, I had trouble picturing the idea of a humongous bridge over an immense body of water.  After some begging I convinced my father to take me to his work to see what all the fuss was about.  I was amazed. The shore teemed with activity, trucks drove by in every direction, and cranes hoisted massive concrete structures through the air.  The main sight that I remember to this day, though, was the skeletal beginnings of the bridge stretching across the abyss of the Northumberland Straight; even to a child like myself, the immensity of the project was astounding.

Two years later, in 1997, the Confederation Bridge officially opened.  Almost instantaneously Prince Edward Island underwent a profound cultural change.  Gone were the days of isolation, gone were the days of the ferry and the ice boats. The future had arrived.  Prince Edward Island had quite literally bridged the gap between itself and the rest of the world,  forever changing the Island way of life.  Although I was only seven at the time, the impact of the bridge was quite apparent to me.  Everybody was talking about what it meant for the province, and I listened to their stories with fervent interest.  I was living through an important moment in the Island’s history, and I wanted to remember it.

Fifteen years later, the bridge is no longer a topic of interest on Prince Edward Island; it simply is.  For Island children born after 1997, the ferry service is a novelty, a mere remnant of times past.  Reminiscing on this historic landmark has made me think about the ways in which transportation has impacted Island life over the years. It has also led me to a new topic for a Telling Island Stories collection:  The History of Transportation on Prince Edward Island.  From the days of the horse-drawn carriage, to the completion of the Provincial Railroad, through the introduction of the automobile, and the implementation of aviation, transportation’s place in Island history cannot be exaggerated.  Transportation has kept Islanders moving forward, whether they liked it or not.

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