Fatal crash sparks worries about losing 'one exit' from Cape Breton

Fatal crash sparks worries about losing 'one exit' from Cape Breton

A fatal accident that cut off the only link between Cape Breton and mainland Nova Scotia last weekend has encouraged two area municipalities to review their emergency response plans.

On Saturday, a cyclist was killed after a collision with a truck, causing the Canso Causeway to be closed for six hours.

"What would happen if the closure were longer than six hours?" Port Hawkesbury Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton said Thursday.

"People are concerned. People are aware that the population of Cape Breton, plus one exit, could equal maybe a lot of trouble."

Port Hawkesbury council already had a committee working on updating the town's existing emergency plan, including the response to potential causeway closures.

"When the accident and the fatality occurred, we knew for sure it's got to be a high priority with regard to our emergency measures," said Chisholm-Beaton.

She wants to help co-ordinate a region-wide response and has already reached out to neighbouring Inverness County, which includes the causeway within its boundaries.

Chisholm-Beaton wants to look at the issue regionally and provincially. "We all own the potential issue of an extended causeway closure," she said, "so we all have to kind of know what the dance steps are."

Inverness County council concerned

Inverness council has also discussed updating its emergency response plan in the wake of Saturday's accident, said warden Betty Ann MacQuarrie.

A meeting of the police advisory committee Thursday reassured her the proper protocols were followed in response to that incident.

The multi-agency emergency management plan involved the RCMP, the Department of Transportation, as well as local fire departments, which set up warming centres for travellers who were stranded during the six-hour closure, she said.

No plans for long closure

As to what would happen in the case of a closure lasting several days, MacQuarrie said there's no precedent. "I think six hours was probably the maximum so far," she said.

"I don't think there are any plans in place that I know of. I mean the Canso Causeway is in very good condition. It's all been redone. But climate change can change that pretty fast."  

Chisholm-Beaton plans to raise the issue at an island-wide conference that will be hosted by Port Hawkesbury at the Gaelic College in November.

"It's not going to hurt to sit down as a region and talk about it and what improvements could be made," said MacQuarrie. "We always have to be looking toward the future and our sustainability and our transportation, for sure."