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Fredericton road construction gridlock surprises motorists, city

With repaving work on Fredericton's Westmorland Street bridge shifting to the eastern lanes on Monday and northbound ramps reduced to one, it seems many motorists decided to take the Princess Margaret bridge instead and ended up facing even longer delays.

Westmorland Street bridge work was expected to cause delays but Princess Margaret bridge ended up snarled

A new road construction diversion in Fredericton Monday had motorists worried about long delays on one of the city's busiest arterials but the traffic snarls during the evening commute were not where drivers, or city officials expected them to be.

Resurfacing work on the Westmorland Street bridge shifted to the two eastern lanes on Monday morning and two of the three northbound ramps were closed.

Drivers had been warned they could face tie ups during the commute north, particularly in the evenings.

But when rush hour arrived, vehicles sailed across the downtown bridge, with traffic actually moving more quickly than usual.

It was the Princess Margaret bridge a few kilometres down river that ended up being bumper to bumper on Monday night as motorists tried to avoid the problem area.

The line of crawling cars was almost four kilometres long, stretching up to Regent Mall and along Forest Hill Road.

"The bright side of that is I think people heard our message," said Darren Charters, a traffic engineer for the city.

He says such behaviour is normal on the first day of a change, but he expects traffic patterns will even out over the coming days.

"Any major road closures, projects like that, you'll see people really adjust their schedules once they find out what the best routes are," said Charters.

The key will be not to avoid one bridge or another, but for motorists to avoid using their cars, where possible, he said.

The city is suggesting commuters carpool, cycle or walk. The city has also advised commuters to stagger their working hours to help ease traffic delays.

All lanes and ramps are scheduled to reopen by the end of August.