Causeway closure creates delays on first morning commute

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Traffic backed up on Coverdale Road in Riverview approaching the Gunningsville Bridge on April 6 during the first morning commute of the causeway closure.  (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)
Traffic backed up on Coverdale Road in Riverview approaching the Gunningsville Bridge on April 6 during the first morning commute of the causeway closure. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)

Traffic backups appeared and disappeared relatively quickly on the first morning commute that the causeway linking Moncton and Riverview closed.

For years, officials have worried about how the six-month closure of the Petitcodiac River causeway would affect traffic crossing the Gunningsville Bridge.

While traffic began backing up at 7 a.m. on Gunningsville Boulevard and Coverdale Road in Riverview, it flowed steadily into Moncton and backups disappeared by 8:30 a.m. There appeared to be little issue on the Hillsborough Road side.

"I'm really pleased with how it's going," Riverview Mayor Ann Seamans said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

Traffic backed up on Gunningsville Boulevard in Riverview past the roundabout with Bridgedale Boulevard on the first morning the causeway was closed.
Traffic backed up on Gunningsville Boulevard in Riverview past the roundabout with Bridgedale Boulevard on the first morning the causeway was closed.(Shane Fowler/CBC)

She said that while traffic moved slower than normal, it was "better than most of us thought."

Posts on social media indicated commutes were 10 to 15 minutes longer than typical.

"The comments that I read on social media, everyone was saying the same thing that it wasn't as bad as they thought it was going to be," she said.

In 2018, the province estimated about 27,500 vehicles cross the causeway daily, while about 26,500 vehicles cross the Gunningsville Bridge.

Riverview and Moncton had implemented a series of steps to prepare for the closure. On the town's side, changes were made to the Coverdale and Gunningsville intersection.

The closure of the causeway is required so a new bridge to replace a portion of it can be completed. The old causeway gates will be removed and the river channel realigned to flow under the bridge.
The closure of the causeway is required so a new bridge to replace a portion of it can be completed. The old causeway gates will be removed and the river channel realigned to flow under the bridge. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

The municipalities carried out a campaign urging people to plan ahead by adjusting their commute times and to try alternatives like cycling if possible. Codiac Transpo established a park and ride service from Riverview into Moncton's downtown.

Isabelle LeBlanc, a spokesperson for the City of Moncton, said no issues were reported on the city's side Tuesday morning.

LeBlanc did say the city adjusted the timing of traffic lights at intersections on Vaughan Harvey Boulevard, which leads to the Gunningsville Bridge, to optimize traffic flow before the causeway closure. She said further changes may be made as the city monitors traffic flow.

"Having said this, with the addition of the causeway traffic to the Vaughan Harvey Boulevard intersections, it is expected that drivers will experience delays during peak periods of the day, even with signal timing optimization," LeBlanc said in an email.

An aerial view of construction of the Petitcodiac River causeway linking Moncton and Riverview looking north toward the city on May 8, 1966.
An aerial view of construction of the Petitcodiac River causeway linking Moncton and Riverview looking north toward the city on May 8, 1966.(Provincial Archives of New Brunswick/Submitted)

The causeway closed Monday afternoon, a step required for the province to complete a new bridge that will replace a section of the structure built in the 1960s that led to environmental issues.

The structure effectively blocked the tidal river. Fish counts dropped, and the river narrowed with silt.

The causeway gates were permanently opened in 2010 and construction of the bridge began in 2017.

The closure is expected to end by Oct. 5, when the $61.6 million project wraps up.