Motorists in Greater Moncton are bracing for six months of changes to a primary route for some people crossing the Petitcodiac River.
A large construction project that was originally scheduled to be completed in 2020 before being delayed, then pushed up again, is taking a significant step forward. The Petitcodiac River causeway, connecting Moncton to Riverview, officially closed Monday. Workers were putting up “road closed” signs on the Moncton side in the morning.
The planned closure is part of a $61.6-million construction project, replacing the causeway with a four-lane bridge and widening the river channel.
According to a consultant report prepared for the Town of Riverview, the river channel will be widened to approximately 175 metres. The new bridge will be about 17 metres high and “will include sidewalks, two river lookouts and connections to Riverview’s existing nature trails,” the report says.
Prior to COVID-19, 27,000 people used the causeway daily, according to numbers from the Town of Riverview. That will double the amount of traffic on the Gunningsville Bridge.
And while many are frustrated about the presumed traffic snarls, others are hoping the months-long pain is worth the long-term gain.
“It’s not going something that I think we deal with as much here in our smaller province,” says LeAnne Larson, who lived in Alberta for 20 years.
“It’s inconvenient for a while, but when (the project) is finalized and the traffic flows better again, everybody kind of forgets about it.”
Kathy Chapman, who lives in Riverview but teaches in Moncton, understands the frustration people have, especially those with fixed schedules.
“There’s going to be some inconvenience for those people,” she says.
But Chapman, too, is looking at the bigger picture.
“I think people just need to take relax and just take it day by day, and hope we can all figure out a schedule that will work for all of us,” she says. “In the end, (the closure) was going to happen, it was just a matter of when.”
Codiac Transpo has adjusted its routes as well. It will have three buses serving Riverview throughout the closure, including a ‘Park & Ride’ route — operating every 30 minutes during peak hours — connecting Riverview to Moncton’s downtown core.
Riverview Mayor Ann Seamans wasn’t available for an interview Monday but has spoken about the closure many times previously.
“The Town has done everything it can to have infrastructure in place to help with traffic flow,” she says in an emailed statement. She noted government offices are closed Monday “so (Tuesday) we will be able to get a true picture of what is happening.”
Ambulance New Brunswick has said it will station an additional ambulance on the Riverview side of the river for 12 hours daily for the duration of the six-month closure.
“This two-person crew, together with the existing 24-hour ambulance in Riverview, will provide additional emergency coverage from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. (when calls are most likely to come in, according to historical data),” Ambulance New Brunswick said in a statement.
“We will monitor our responses very closely during this construction period to ensure we are providing the best service possible.”
In a very different line of work, food delivery services will also be impacted.
Kevin McLellan, the owner of Poppy Shop Food Delivery Services, says about 20 per cent of calls take him and his drivers to Riverview for either a pickup or delivery.
“I’m going to have drivers stationed in Riverview,” he says. “They’re going to stay there for the supper time hours.”
He says for orders that will have drivers crossing the river, there will be an additional cost “absorbed by the restaurants.”
That’s a blow to both restaurants and drivers who are perhaps missing out on tips from Moncton calls, he says.
Stephen Brown, a Dieppe resident who doesn’t frequently cross the river, is looking forward to the benefits of the river’s ecosystem with the channel widening.
“People in charge underestimated when the causeway was built in 1967, so I think it’s a very positive thing that the river could be at least partially restored,” he says.