New Brunswick

Bridge upgrades and a new school in the mix as province unveils capital spending details

Miramichiers can brace for traffic disruptions two summers from now, and communities looking to have new schools built will have more predictable rankings of priority projects, according to new details of the province's capital spending plan.

Ministers reveal which construction projects will be getting scarce infrastructure cash

Work will continue on the ongoing retrofit of Miramichi’s Centennial Bridge, and will require the span to shut down completely for two summer construction seasons in 2022 and 2023. (CBC News file photo)

Miramichiers can brace for traffic disruptions two summers from now, and communities looking to have new schools built will have more predictable rankings of priority projects, according to new details of the province's capital spending plan.

Key cabinet ministers fleshed out which construction and maintenance projects will be in line for scarce infrastructure dollars during a legislative committee session Wednesday.

They include the ongoing retrofit of Miramichi's Centennial Bridge, which will require the span to shut down completely for two summer construction seasons in 2022 and 2023.

The province chose that over a second option of closing the bridge in a single year but for a much longer time.

 "We want to minimize the time we will have it closed," said Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Jill Green.

The 1.1-kilometre bridge, part of both Route 8 and Route 11, is also a major highway link between southeast and northern New Brunswick.

Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Jill Green said Wednesday that traffic rerouting plans are already in the works for when a span of Miramichi's Centennial Bridge shuts down. “We want to minimize the time we will have it closed," Green said. (CBC News/Jacques Poitras)

Trying to minimize impact, Green says

Green's department is already at work on plans to reroute traffic through the city of Miramichi. 

"It is a major part of the transportation network and we realize that so we're doing our very best to minimize the impacts," she said.

This year's budget includes money to work on the bridge's piers, work that was cancelled for unexplained reasons by the previous Liberal government just before the 2018 election.

Green also confirmed there's $7.5 million in the capital budget to start design work on a new Fredericton courthouse. The Progressive Conservatives cancelled a previous iteration of that project in 2018.

There's $7.5 million in the capital budget to start design work on a new Fredericton courthouse, although Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Jill Green wouldn't say whether it will go on the site of the existing one or somewhere else in the city. (CBC News/Hadeel Ibrahim)

No word on where new courthouse would go

Green wouldn't say whether the new courthouse will go on the site of the existing one or somewhere else in Fredericton.

The province is also advancing several projects that it had planned to do years from now to take advantage of federal dollars available through a special COVID-19 stimulus program.

Ottawa is offering to fund 80 percent of the costs, which prompted the province to move up a $5.5 million retrofit of the legislature's Departmental Building, built in 1888.

Adjacent to the main legislative building, it houses the offices of the official legislative journal Hansard, of backbench PC MLAs and two smaller political parties, and the legislative press gallery. 

"We will be able to reduce future needs by accessing these programs," Green said. 

Meanwhile, Education Minister Dominic Cardy said in his speech on his capital spending estimates that he's making changes to the system that ranks priority school construction projects, known as the Quadruple Bottom Line Analysis tool.

Cardy said communities have been frustrated because a high-ranked project can drop lower on the list because of unpredictable factors such as demographics from year to year.

Education minister Dominic Cardy says school siting policies may be reviewed as part of municipal reform process. (Radio-Canada)

Cardy announces new school for Fredericton

But now the five top-ranking projects that don't get funding in one year will be carried over into the top positions the following year, with construction hinging only on whether there is enough money in the budget.

"Now scoring high on a QBL is going to mean something," he said.

That means a long-anticipated new school for Saint John's south-central peninsula, which did not make the cut this year, will be high up in the queue next year, he said. 

The only new school Cardy announced this year is a kindergarten-to-Grade 5 school for Fredericton's Killarney Lake area. It will relieve overcrowding at two existing schools on the city's north side. 

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

now