There could be a third highway in the sky over Halifax Harbour as early as 2016.

As representatives from the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission told City Hall last night, that’s when commuter traffic will exceed the capacity of the Angus L. MacDonald and Murray A. MacKay bridges.

“There’s been a slow and steady and relentless growth in annual bridge crossings,” engineering consultant John Robinson of Delphi-MRC said.

With the help of Delphi-MRC, the Bridge Commission has narrowed down ways in which to mitigate this pending overload to several options.

But the best choice is between a six-lane bridge or a four-lane tunnel connecting the south-end Halifax container terminal to Woodside at Highway 111, general manager and CEO Steve Snider said.

In 2008 dollars and without factoring in land acquisition, Snider put the bridge cost at $1.1 billion, and the tunnel at $1.4 billion.

Given forecasted population and employment growth, Robinson said bridge traffic is set to increase substantially. In 2005, there were 150 days where bridge crossings exceeded 100,000, up from 25 days in 1999.

There are currently 32 million bridge crossings annually. Other options included twinning the MacKay bridge, and building tunnels to devote exclusively to rapid transit.

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