New Brunswick

Centennial Bridge tender cancelled but no reason given

The latest tender for work that is part of the multi-year, $100-million rehabilitation project on Miramichi's Centennial Bridge has been cancelled and no one is saying why.

Miramichi Liberal candidate Bill Fraser says tender will be reissued with new scope of work

The Miramichi Centennial Bridge, opened in 1967 is undergoing a $100-million rehabilitation. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

The latest tender for work that is part of the multi-year, $100 million rehabilitation project on the Centennial Bridge has been cancelled and no one is saying why. 

The tender was for rehabilitation work on 12 piers numbered from nine to 20 at an engineer's estimated cost for work of $17,422,871. 

There were three tenders submitted for the bid:

  • Eiffage Innovative Canada Inc. - $16,894,458
  • Greenfield Construction Ltd. - $17,577,214.29 
  • Atlantic Underground Services Ltd. - $26,400,098

Miramichi Liberal candidate Bill Fraser was asked by CBC during a campaign announcement in Napan on Sept. 13 why it was cancelled, but said only that it was a recommendation by staff at the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

"We're going to be reissuing another tender in the coming weeks with a new scope of work," he said.  

When asked why the cancellation of the tender was recommended, Fraser, who was minister of transportation and infrastructure before the election, said it was a question for senior department managers at the deputy minister level to answer. 

Atcon connection

Asked if had anything to do with Greenfield Construction Ltd., a Miramichi based company with connections to former Atcon owner Robbie Tozer, Fraser repeated his first answer, saying there was a change in scope of the work. 

Atcon received $63.4 million in loan guarantees from the Liberal government of Shawn Graham even after civil servants warned the Graham cabinet that helping Atcon was a risk. . 

The company collapsed in 2010 despite the loan guarantees approved by the Liberals, one of the most controversial political decisions of their 2006-10 term in office.

Miramichi Liberal candidate Bill Fraser said the latest tender for the Centennial Bridge was cancelled on the engineer's recommendation. (CBC )
"This happens on occasion with tenders that come out of the department of transportation and infrastructure. They recommended we cancel the tender that was out and that we're going to be reissuing a tender with a different scope of work," Fraser said. 

When asked specifically why the tender was cancelled and if it would delay the project in any way, department spokesperson Jeremy Trevors essentially echoed Fraser's comments, adding the department was "currently evaluating how to best manage the project from a scheduling and resource perspective."  

Calls for northern bypass

That's not good enough for Miramichi resident Pat King, who said he will be one of many affected by the full bridge closure in 2020. Throwing what he calls another "wrinkle" with the tender cancellation adds to the frustration of the nine-year rehabilitation project 

"I work in Bathurst and live on the south side of the Centennial Bridge so this is going to add time to my already long commute," King said.

Frustrated by a lack of information, King created the Facebook group called "Citizens for a Miramichi Northern Bypass."

Community members are calling on the government to build the bypass around the northern part of the city connecting the bypass from Route 8 in the former town of Newcastle to Route 8 on the Bathurst Highway in Douglastown. 

Traffic woes

When the Centennial Bridge has a full closure in 2020, motorists will have to navigate a 25-kilometre detour through the city. (CBC)
"The problem is we've never gotten a consistent story from any level of government. When this started years ago and they decided the bridge was going to get rehabilitated, if they would have started [the northern bypass] then, this would not have been an issue," said King.

"Why they would consider closing a bridge as important to the northern New Brunswick infrastructure without considering how they would manoeuvre traffic around just doesn't make sense." 

When the bridge is fully closed, all traffic will be rerouted to cross the Miramichi Bridge and travel north on the King George Highway to reconnect with Routes 8 and 11 in Douglastown, about a 25-kilometre detour. 

King said add to this rush hour traffic, potential accidents and a two-kilometre stretch that has no alternate access, northern N.B. could be cut off from the south. 

But the province had said the opening of a roundabout at the intersection of routes 8, 117 and 126 as well as funding to alter the King George Highway by adding left turning lanes, for instance, will alleviate some of the traffic issues. 

With files from Jacques Poitras