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$15M announced for Saint John Harbour Bridge project, lane reduction starting April

Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced $7 million for the Harbour Bridge renovation, and $2.8 million to expand Canadian Border Services Agency operations in the Port of Saint John. (Roger Cosman/CBC - image credit)
Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced $7 million for the Harbour Bridge renovation, and $2.8 million to expand Canadian Border Services Agency operations in the Port of Saint John. (Roger Cosman/CBC - image credit)

There's good news and there's bad news.

The funding needed or the third phase of the Harbour Bridge improvement project in Saint John has been secured.

And with just three months of respite from traffic delays and lane closures for the bridge, construction is expected to start up again in April.

On Tuesday, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said the federal government is contributing $7.3 million for the last two phases of the bridge project, which is expected to end in 2026.

He also announced up to $2.8 million to allow expansion of Canada Border Services Agency operations at the port to accommodate the number of container ships coming through the port.

Ship and truck traffic both increase

The volume of ships has tripled since 2016, which means the number of trucks and the volume of traffic on the bridge has also increased, Alghabra said, making its rehabilitation project that much more important.

"These improvements will extend the life of the bridge and ensure the steady flow of goods between Saint John, Halifax and the U.S. state of Maine," he said at a news conference in Saint John.

The bridge was built in 1968. Since 2021, lanes have been reduced, and the bridge sometimes totally closed, during the spring, summer and fall months while work continued.

Speaking at the announcement on behalf of Transportation Minister Jeff Carr was Social Development Minister Dorothy Shephard, who said the province will also spend $7.7 million for the remaining two phases.

Shepherd said she understands the traffic difficulties.

"We want to thank everyone for their patience as the work that goes on the Harbour Bridge happens. It's not always convenient, but it's so necessary and  it's vital to the life of the bridge."

The delays are made worse by drivers not zipper merging. Last year, the province added informational videos and graphics to increase awareness of the importance of the manoeuvre.

The $26.4-million project involves removing existing asphalt, eliminating several expansion joints by installing continuous link slabs, replacing remaining expansion joints, new waterproofing and new asphalt.

Each year, until 2024, the bridge will be reduced to two lanes from early April until late November.

Construction delays in 2022 meant repaving went on until the middle of December.

MP Wayne Long said it's up to the province to decide timelines and plan alternate routes. People can take the Reversing Falls Bridge if they want to avoid the construction, but that bridge needs work as well.

Port expansion continues

Port Saint John vice-president Paula Copeland said that since 2016, when the federal government announced the $205 million port modernization project, the port has gone from a "small" classification, to large.

"We jumped up to the big leagues," she said.

Roger Cosman/CBC
Roger Cosman/CBC

Since volume is expected to continue to grow, more border officers are required to inspect the containers coming in, she said. To make room for a larger office for these operations, the Saint John Port Authority is spending $2.8 million.

That, as well as the other $2.8 million from the federal government, means the port will have $5.6 million to work with.

Copeland did not give a timeline for the port construction project. She said it will add construction and Border Services jobs to the city.