Sea Level Rise and the Construction of the Confederation Bridge in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence

Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 4/29/2010 - Updated on: 3/02/2020

Posted by

Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

The Confederation Bridge crosses the Northumberland Strait in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and connects Prince Edward Island to the Canadian mainland in New Brunswick. The structure, completed in 1997, was designed to facilitate transportation needs and accommodate a one meter rise in sea levels over 100 years.


The Confederation Bridge is one of the most frequently cited examples of incorporating adaptation into infrastructure. The bridge connects Borden, Prince Edward Island to Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick. It spans eight miles (12.9 kilometers) and is approximately 165 feet (50 meters) high; the bridge was designed to accommodate travelers, ocean vessels, and an expected one meter in sea level rise that could undermine the integrity of the structure and increase erosion along coastlines.


Planning for the bridge began in 1985 in order to replace the seasonal, infrequent ferry service that facilitated travel between Prince Edward Island and the Eastern Canadian mainland. Climate change and sea level rise were considered from the very beginning in the proposal, siting, and design of the bridge. Fluctuations in public perception of the amount of sea level rise that Eastern Canada could expect led to debates about the extent to which sea level rise should be considered in the bridge’s construction. Planners ultimately used climate scenarios to determine an appropriate height to account for a one meter rise in sea level and appropriate spacing between support beams to allow for ice blocks that float down the Northumberland Strait to pass safely underneath.

Outcomes and Conclusions

The bridge, which took four years to build and was completed in 1997, was designed to last for 100 years or more.


Gregg, R. M. (2010). Sea Level Rise and the Construction of the Confederation Bridge in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence [Case study on a project of Strait Crossing Bridge Limited]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated April 2010)

Affiliated Organizations

The Confederation Bridge joins the eastern Canadian provinces of Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, making travel throughout the Maritimes easy and convenient. The curved, 12.9 kilometer (8 mile) long bridge is the longest in the world crossing ice-covered water, and a decade after its construction, it endures as one of Canada’s top engineering achievements of the 20th century. The Confederation Bridge is operated by Strait Crossing Bridge Limited.


Effort Stage
Target Climate Changes and Impacts