Drivers in the greater Moncton area are about to get some unexpected good news: the new Petitcodiac River bridge is set to open, ahead of schedule and on budget.
The link between Riverview and Moncton has undergone a sweeping overhaul in the past five months, with the closure of the causeway rerouting about 25,000 vehicles a day to the Gunningsville Bridge.
When the project was launched on April 5, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure said the link would reopen on Oct. 5.
But on Tuesday, the department confirmed that date has been moved up by two weeks. The bridge is now expected to open on Friday, Sept. 17, weather permitting.
Mark Taylor, communications manager with the department, credited the earlier opening date to good planning and lots of co-operation.
"Basically, things have gone really well," he said, citing "built-in contingency plans as well as really good stakeholder involvement.
"Things have really gone according to plan."
Removal of old causeway gates a key component
A key component of the project was the removal of the old causeway gate structure, Taylor said.
Built in 1967, the structure blocked the river for more than 50 years, he said.
The new bridge allows for the widening of the river channel to 180 metres from a previous 50 metres, "which plays a big role in allowing the tidal bore to flow freely."
But there was much, much more to the project.
"This new structure will have a concrete deck with four traffic lanes, a pedestrian cycling lane with two observation post points facing east," Taylor said. "It will be connected to a trail system that runs along both sides of the river, connecting to ballfields, playgrounds, memorials and other points of interest.
"So it's very much an important part of the community … the bridge is going to be a really nice addition to the greater Moncton area."
Taylor said the completed project came in "pretty much on budget."
The cost of the project was about $121 million, "and I do stress that's for the entire project," he said, noting that the bridge itself cost about $61 million.