Work has started on the new International Bridge that will replace the current aging link connecting Edmundston, N.B. to the community of Madawaska, Maine.
Reed & Reed Inc., a Woolwich, Maine, company was awarded the contract to build the Edmundston-Madawaska International Bridge earlier this year.
Jackson Parker, CEO of the company, said workers on both sides of the border have started to build a temporary work trestle across the St. John River, which will be used to help build the bridge.
"It gives us access for manpower, equipment, materials — that sort of thing," Parker explained.
The trestle should be ready by the end of August, with workers on both sides meeting in the middle.
Parker said the temporary work is required before the work on the permanent bridge starts.
"You have to build a big, strong temporary structure because the cranes are large, heavy equipment is large, the steel beams are long and heavy," he said, adding the trestle is substantial.
The initial work on the bridge will be under water, beginning with building two of the five piers for the bridge, and should be starting in a few weeks.
The new bridge will be about 550 metres, which is about twice the size of the current bridge. It's estimated to cost about $108 million Cdn, or $86 million US.
It will also run diagonally across the St. John River to allow for the existing Canada Border Services Agency port of entry to be used, while the U.S. port of entry will be constructed at a new site a few hundred metres upriver.
Parker described the new bridge as wider than the existing link with better lighting.
He said the current bridge has trusses overhead that vehicles drive under, but the new bridge will be more open, allowing for bigger trucks to use it.
"Trucks will be able to go across it without worrying about maybe a log popping up off the truck and hitting the truss, or something like that."
Building a bridge over the Canadian-U.S. border during a pandemic that has shut down travel between the two countries could cause problems if the border doesn't reopen soon.
"We'll have deliveries for materials and supplies going back and forth, and we'll need to be able to do that with an open border — so hopefully it gets squared away soon," Parker said.
The temporary trestle being built now will have to be taken down in January because of potential ice and high water. It will be rebuilt again in the spring.
Parker said the new bridge should be open to traffic by November 2023.