Premier Brian Gallant was back in Saint John on Tuesday for yet another funding announcement.

This time he suggested the province is ready to take on a major traffic headache for motorists on the city's east side.

Gallant said the province will invest $1.2 million to do pre-construction work for a Route 1 overpass to link Foster Thurston Drive with Ashburn Lake Road.

'It's pretty clear that this is electioneering. This is what they do.' - Glen Savoie, Progressive Conservative MLA

The estimated $31 million project was not announced but, according to a news release, construction is "anticipated" to begin in 2021.

The overpass would make the fast-developing East Point shopping district easier to reach.

ashburn lake road intersection

Mayor Don Darling says discussions are under way about realigning Ashburn Lake Road to link directly with Retail Drive at a new intersection on Rothesay Avenue. (CBC)

Shoppers at East Point quickly warmed to the idea Monday.

"I think it would be great, don't have to go all the way down to the end of Rothesay Avenue to get west," said Janet Daley who was shopping at East Point on Tuesday.

"I think it would be a great idea, perfect," said Sheila Kernighan, who was leaving Costco to head west to St. George.

Wonders about timing

The timing of the announcement was suspicious to Glen Savoie, the Progressive Conservative MLA who represents Saint John East.

"They've had four years to do that," Savoie said. "Why is it just coming up in an election year? 

"It's pretty clear that this is electioneering. This is what they do. And Brian Gallant is willing to say and do anything he can to keep his job.

Last week, the premier announced a financial aid package for the city of $22.8 million.

Saint John Mayor Don Darling said a new overpass would open up development opportunities for the city in both east Saint John and Millidgeville.

Lights for 2 intersections

To smooth traffic flow to and from the overpass the city would have to realign Retail Drive to link directly with Ashburn Lake Road, a separate and long-talked about project that would involve acquiring land from at least one business.

Darling said there are discussions about doing that.

"That would be probably one of the most talked about intersections in the city," Darling said. "Certainly, those will be discussions we'll be having with the province to see if these things can happen in tandem."

Tuesday's provincial announcement also included money to put four-way traffic signals at the westbound off-ramp from Route 1 at Rothesay Avenue, and another set of lights at the intersection of Rothesay Road and Rothesay Avenue.