Almost three-quarters of New Brunswick's border crossings with Maine will be getting a makeover, according to a tender notice posted by the federal government.
Thirteen border posts on the New Brunswick-Maine border are included in the $99-million plan to upgrade or replace 71 of Canada's land border crossings and some related housing structures.
The border posts slated for renovation are located at: Bloomfield, Campbello, Centreville, Clair, Fosterville, Four Falls, Gillespie, Grand Falls, Milltown, River du Chute, St. Croix, Woodstock Road, St. Stephen.
The crossings that are getting facelifts are all categorized as small or remote ports of entry [SRPOE]. The crossings processed 3.4 million travellers, or 4.8 per cent of all travellers, in the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
A 2014 report examined small and remote ports of entry and looked at their relevance and and performance, whether they met the needs of Canadians, and whether they were performing up to standard.
The evaluation found removing the ports entirely would be unwise, since "There is a need to provide communities access to border services."
"Often, the nearest grocery store, gas station, school or emergency service is located on one side of the border, making access to border services critical, especially for emergency responders," states the report. "Expansion of operating hours to 24/7 through remote traveller processing at key SRPOEs would provide a vital link between border communities."
However, they also found many of the buildings had not been upgraded in more than 50 years, meaning there were numerous occupational health and safety hazards for the border officers, including high levels of radon gas, pests, lack of potable water, and inadequate heating and electrical supply.
Jean-Pierre Fortin, the national president of the union representing customs and immigrations workers, says that there were numerous health and safety complaints filed by the union over the last few years.
"We're talking about offices that will be replaced that are in some cases more than 50 years old, so it was more than due."
St. Stephen Mayor John Quartermain says the town hasn't been given many specifics, but with the low dollar, the upgrades probably won't have an impact on wait times at the three international border crossings in the area.
"The traffic has been reduced so much that if there are delays, or if they have to shut down one of the border crossings due to construction, I think the other two will more than handle the influx of traffic in both directions."
The government is now taking bids on the work from the private sector under a P3, or public-private partnership, model. In this model, private companies will be responsible for completing the renovations, and will also be responsible for maintenance for up to 30 years after the completion of the project. Contracts will be awarded in June.
All border upgrades are expected to be completed by 2020.