Dam delays: Crossing at Mactaquac still affected by construction

Edna Munn says she has been used to dam construction delays in the summer months, but has been puzzled why there are still delays into February.  (Shane Fowler/CBC News - image credit)
Edna Munn says she has been used to dam construction delays in the summer months, but has been puzzled why there are still delays into February. (Shane Fowler/CBC News - image credit)

Fredericton-area commuters who rely on the Mactaquac Dam have been confused about construction continuing well into the winter.

Residents are used to crossing delays each summer at the dam about 20 kilometres west of Fredericton. Maintenance on the dam routinely reduces the roadway to a single lane, and divers must wait a few minutes for traffic lights to signal their turn to cross.

But that annual inconvenience usually wraps up by October or November. This year traffic has been reduced to a single lane now into February and many have been wondering why.

"We usually have to wait at the light for 15 to 20 minutes," said Crystal Beach, who takes the dam across the St. John River to go to work. "That's every day during the week."

Shane Fowler/CBC News
Shane Fowler/CBC News

Beach says some days the wait is even longer. On Thursday she says she waited a half hour to cross on her way home — a wait that doubled her usual commuting time. "I got there at 5 o'clock, and it was, like, 5:33 by the time I got across," said Beach.

During the day, outside of peak commute hours, the wait is shorter.

"It's an inconvenience, somewhat," said Scott Howe, who sometime waits at the timed lights between five and 10 minutes. "I cross it probably once a day and it is a pain."

"It's taken a lot longer this year, and it puzzles us as to what's going on," said Edna Munn, who says she and her husband cross whenever they need to go into Fredericton, about 25 kilometres from the crossing.

WATCH | Long lights and long lines at the Mactaquac Dam: 

The bad news is that those delays will continue for approximately another 10 months. The good news is that the dam won't close completely to the approximately 4,340 vehicles that cross it every day as had been previously expected.

Construction on the Mactaquac Dam actually wraps up in October, according to N.B. Power spokesperson Dominique Couture in an email to CBC News.

When that maintenance ended last fall, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure continued its work on rehabilitating what is known as the approach channel bridge adjacent to the dam crossing.

CBC News requested an interview with someone with the department to explain the delays and project expectations, but a spokesperson said no one was available. Instead they provided a link to the department's list of DTI project updates on its website.

According to the DTI website, "The timeline and specifications for the project have been adjusted in order to avoid a full bridge closure during rehabilitation work. The project will now accommodate a single lane closure only while the work is being done."

Shane Fowler/CBC News
Shane Fowler/CBC News

It states work on the 189-metre bridge will continue until November and then resume again the spring of 2024. It's expected the work will be completed in the fall of 2024. The DTI website explains that any full closures of the bridge will be temporary, and commuters will be made aware with signs, but long-term detours aren't planned.

It had previously been expected that the project would close the dam crossing completely for about six months from April 2023 to October 2023.