“It’s a new government, so they are looking at this issue for the first time. The capital budget was release within two months of going into power,” said Sarah Ketcheson, communications director with the N.B. Department of Transportation, on Monday. She added that with the recent closure of heavy truck traffic on the international bridge, the new government looked at the issue seriously.
“They made a commitment to work with Maine and continue with the construction of the bridge,” Ketcheson said.
The future of the new bridge, for which plans had been finalized under an agreement with New Brunswick’s former government, had been temporarily halted while newly elected officials reviewed the province’s capital budget estimates. Those estimates did not include the International Bridge when the document was released in December 2010.
Construction of the new bridge will begin once all environmental and regulatory approvals have been obtained by both governments, with costs for the project, including removal of the existing structure, shared between the province and the state. The cost to build the new bridge is estimated at $10.5 million. The two governments have also developed an automated light-and-camera system to enable truck traffic to resume, for now, on the old bridge.
“This bridge is a vital link for local residents, and for industrial users in New Brunswick who rely on it to transport goods into the U.S.,” said Williams in the press release. “Its replacement is a priority for our government, and we plan to start construction this year.”
Since Jan. 5, a 3-ton weight restriction has been in place after both the Maine and New Brunswick Departments of Transportation evaluated steelwork in the bridge and determined a restriction was necessary for safety.
Crews with both provincial and state departments of Transportation will install the automated traffic signals and signs to allow two-way traffic for cars, and one-way traffic for vehicles more than 3 tons, 24 hours a day.
Once those measures are in place, it is expected the bridge will be reopened to all traffic on Feb. 4, according to the press release.