Centennial Bridge refurbishment will include a new sidewalk
Rehabilitation work expected to cause ‘some’ full bridge closures in 2023, '24, and '25
A major refurbishment of the Centennial Bridge in Miramichi will include a sidewalk, the provincial government confirmed this week.
"We're very pleased to see that our advocacy efforts have worked," Miramichi Mayor Adam Lordon said of the city and resident efforts to ensure a pedestrian crossing is maintained.
The province is in the midst of a refurbishment of the bridge built in 1967 estimated to cost $100 million now expected to wrap up in 2025. The work was funded by both the provincial and federal governments.
The 1.1-kilometre span is a significant link in the city. It's a connection between northern and southern New Brunswick, but also for residents in the city separated by the Miramichi River.
Jill Green, New Brunswick's minister of transportation and infrastructure, said the province had considered not replacing the existing sidewalks to make more room for the roadway.
However, she said, the community strongly advocated keeping pedestrian access.
"You have a city with two communities separated by a bridge, and they've been using the sidewalks that are in place on the bridge now," Green said. "And to take that away was going to be a hardship for the community. And so we worked very hard with them to find a solution to our problem that we had."
The province released an animation of the new sidewalk on YouTube this week that shows a ramp rising from Water Street, zigzagging back toward the north and rising alongside the bridge structure.
Lordon said the new pedestrian route should be safer than the narrow existing sidewalks that aren't separated from traffic.
Kevin Gallant is also pleased. The engineer is involved in active transportation efforts in the community, including as a consultant on plans for more trail routes.
"Pedestrians are exposed right now when transports go by," Gallant said of the current sidewalks. "It's pretty dangerous and you don't want to be riding your bike."
Gallant said the pedestrian crossing serves to complete a circular route around the city along with a second bridge upriver. He hopes it could help increase active transit in the region and potentially attract people to the region like the Acadian Peninsula's Veloroute.
People's Alliance MLA Michelle Conroy, whose Miramichi riding includes the southern end of the bridge, thanked the department in a Facebook post for "listening to the people of Miramichi" and adding the sidewalk back to the plans.
The city has previously expressed concerns about plans that called for closing the bridge to traffic for up to six months at a time. The province estimates 15,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily.
Under the new timeline, the bridge will "occasionally" be reduced to one lane this year.
Construction this year involves relocating utility infrastructure, bearing replacements and work on the bridge's piers.
Lordon said the city plans to spend about $1 million this year to widen shoulders and sidewalks along the King George Highway, on the north side of the river, in June and July ahead of the expected work on the bridge that will reduce it to one lane.
A provincial website says "some full closures" are expected in 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Specific dates for the lane reduction and full closure will be announced by the province at a later time.
Green said the length of the closures will vary, with some up to three months instead of six.
During those years, the work involves widening the roadway, replacing the bridge deck — or roadway — and rehabilitation of some steel components.