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Various proposals for a fixed link across the Northumberland Strait can be traced as far back as the 1870s when the province's railway system was developed.

Subsequent proposals arose during federal elections in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Discussion of a fixed link can be traced to George Howlan, who called for construction of a railway tunnel beneath Abegweit Passage at the same time as the Prince Edward Island Railway was being built across the province in the 1870s.

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Tolls only apply when leaving Prince Edward Island (when traveling westbound).

The toll rates as of January 2017 are $46.50 for a two-axle automobile and $8.00 for each additional axle. While pedestrians and cyclists are not permitted to cross the bridge, a shuttle service is available.

It is estimated by tidal experts at the Canadian Hydrographic Service, that tidal currents through a gap in such a causeway would be in excess of 18 knots (33 km/h), powerful enough to counter most commercial ships and to sweep away boulders the size of houses.

Consideration of a fixed link was renewed in the 1980s by an unsolicited proposal from a Nova Scotia businessman.

The most direct route across the Northumberland Strait, however, was at the 13-kilometre (8.1 mi) wide Abegweit Passage.

Infrequent winter service provided by underpowered steamships incapable of breaking sea ice ensured the survival of a passenger and mail service across Abegweit Passage using iceboats until a permanent ferry service was established in the 1910s.

The topic was raised in 1957, only two years following the opening of the Canso Causeway, and at the same time as another mega-project, the St. A rockfill causeway was proposed to cross Abegweit Passage, with a 300 m (984 ft) bridge/tunnel to accommodate shipping.

This plan was rejected for navigational reasons but was raised again in 1962, and in 1965, the federal government, ignoring concerns of the shipping industry, called for tenders for a 8 million fixed link featuring a tunnel/causeway/bridge.

The ebb and flow of public support for a fixed link was indirectly tied to the varying levels of federal investment in ferry and steamship connections to the province over the years, finally culminating in a proposal in the mid-1980s which resulted in the current bridge being constructed.

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