Work is starting again on two long-promised highway projects that are taking several years and millions of dollars to complete — examples of what Finance Minister, Blaine Higgs has recently said is "building beyond our means."
The New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure estimates about $280-million in capital spending for the coming year, including money to finish the partially built Welsford bypass and One Mile House Interchange.
In January, during pre-budget consultations in Saint John, Higgs questioned the practicality of massive highway projects in the province.
"We need to put money into rural roads so we can get people off the highways and into our communities," he said. "But yet we build these big throughways."
Transportation officials say the final price tag on the One Mile House project in Saint John is $74-million — approximately 70 per cent more than originally planned.
The highway interchange involves a series of overpasses that will lead to the Bayside Drive industrial area, and was started in anticipation of a second oil refinery. Irving Oil cancelled its plans to build the refinery, but the interchange went ahead anyway despite ballooning costs.
In Welsford, the transportation department has budgeted $12.9-million to complete a bypass of the village for fall 2013. Work there quietly ground to a halt in the spring.
Local residents say the bypass will change the complexion of the town. Jim Hector predicts it will be for the better.
"I think they could have done it cheaper by doing a little bit less, but the thing is Eagle Rock down the road, that's where most of the deaths occur. So I think it's a good idea," Hector said, adding that the project appears to be worth the expense.
However, not everyone will benefit from the multi-million dollar road work investment. The future is uncertain for Georgette's Diner, which has been operating just off Route 7 in Welsford since 1946.
Josh Holden is the owner's son. He says the restaurant will have to shut down when the bypass opens.
"As soon as the highway opens she'll have to close her doors because all the revenue is from the passersby of the village," Holden said.
Work began on the $65-million 10-kilometre highway between Saint John and Fredericton in 2009.
Meanwhile, the One Mile House project is expected to be completed later in the year. It was initially projected to cost $43.5-million when announced in 2007.