Emergency services preparing for months-long Petitcodiac causeway closure

·3 min read
The completion of the bridge, shown here in December, will require closing the causeway so the gate structure can be removed and ramps built to the bridge.  (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)
The completion of the bridge, shown here in December, will require closing the causeway so the gate structure can be removed and ramps built to the bridge. (Shane Fowler/CBC - image credit)

Emergency services are preparing for the impending closure of the Petitcodiac River causeway that's expected to last until October.

The causeway will close April 5 to allow the completion of a new bridge that will replace it, part of a decades-long plan to restore the river's tidal flow.

Around 25,000 vehicles use the causeway daily, according to previous estimates. That traffic is expected to mainly shift to the Gunningsville Bridge. The next crossing is about 20 kilometres upstream in Salisbury.

Fire chiefs from Moncton, Riverview, Dieppe as well as representatives from Ambulance New Brunswick and the Codiac Regional RCMP have been part of a committee formed in 2019 to plan for the closure.

Codiac Regional RCMP Staff Sgt. Mario Fortin said the force has made plans to adjust its approach to policing in Riverview, but it's not clear how significant the traffic impact will be until the closure begins.

"For us, like anybody else, the fire chief or the ambulance, it's going to be to get ready and then wait and see how the traffic and population reacts to that and how big the impact is going to be," Fortin said.

The causeway gates will be removed during the closure of the crossing.
The causeway gates will be removed during the closure of the crossing. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Codiac, headquartered in Moncton, polices both communities as well as Dieppe.

"We have vehicles already assigned to Riverview. At first, we're probably going to have a few more just in case we have a hard time crossing the bridge," Fortin said.

Should there be delays in additional officers getting to Riverview in the event of an emergency, Fortin said Codiac can call upon their RCMP colleagues from the Southeast District RCMP, which is based in Riverview but polices the rural areas.

According to a report presented to Riverview council last month, Ambulance New Brunswick last year had considered several options to maintain paramedic services. One would be to station a second ambulance in the west end of the town during peak traffic periods.

The report says another option would be to station an advanced care paramedic unit in the town during those peak traffic times.

The causeway road, shown toward the bottom, will be removed during the closure and the river channel realigned to flow under the new bridge.
The causeway road, shown toward the bottom, will be removed during the closure and the river channel realigned to flow under the new bridge. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

Ambulance New Brunswick did not provide an interview. Jean-Pierre Savoie, a vice president with Ambulance New Brunswick, said in a statement details are still being worked out.

Both major regional hospitals are in Moncton.

Robin True, Riverview's fire chief, said the fire department has sufficient resources to respond within the town.

The closure could, though, affect response times if Moncton's fire crews are asked to assist with a call in Riverview, or if Riverview crews are asked to help Moncton.

True said there could be a one to two minute impact on response times for mutual aid.

"We have sufficient resources, I think, on both sides of the river that there would not be a serious impact on public safety, even with that one or two minute delay in mutual aid," True said.