Petitcodiac River bridge construction underway

Work on a new bridge across the Petitcodiac River to replace the causeway between Riverview and Moncton started Monday, as efforts to bring the river back to life took another significant step.

$61M project aimed at restoring the river after decades of damage by causeway

Work is beginning on a new bridge across the Petitcodiac River to replace the causeway between Moncton and Riverview. (Submitted by Petitcodiac Renaissance)

Work on a new bridge across the Petitcodiac River to replace the causeway between Riverview and Moncton started Monday, as efforts to bring the river back to life took a significant step.

Officials said equipment would start rolling onto the site on Monday. Work on a detour will start by next week and is scheduled to be completed by August.

While drivers who use the causeway to commute might grumble about construction, Paul Belliveau is feeling quite the opposite. 

"The impact the river was having really on all of our health was getting to a point where there would be greater problems down the road," said Belliveau, the chair of the board of directors of Petitcodiac Riverkeeper, a non-profit organization working to restore and protect the Petitcodiac and other rivers in the area.

Years of waiting

"The river will restore itself if we help it, and if we don't it'll get sicker," Belliveau said in an interview with Information Morning Moncton.

The addition of the causeway decades ago created a variety of environmental problems, including the buildup of silt and a narrowing of the river that made it inhospitable to salmon and other fish.

"Mother Nature is very resilient but when you abuse it for 60,70, 80 years it's going to take time for it to heal itself," Belliveau said.

A restoration project started in 2008 under former Premier Shawn Graham's government and in 2010, the causeway's gates were opened so the water and fish could move on both sides.

"It was a Band-Aid on a major issue," he said. "Not moving ahead would have been a very grave mistake."

Expects slow renewal

In December, the province announced it would put 32.9 million into the $61.6-million bridge project. The federal government will provide the remainder of the financing.

We can't ignore the restoration of a beautiful river that was vibrant and was the centre of a community.- Paul Belliveau, Peticodiac Riverkeeper

​Belliveau said there will be huge benefits to the project.

"The health of any river is important on many scales," he said. 

But while he doesn't expect any immediate results and said it will take time for the river to improve, Belliveau said the river would only get worse if nothing is done.

The new bridge will be steel and 240 metres long. It will include a sidewalk and two lookout areas.

 "We can't ignore the question of health, we can't ignore the restoration of a beautiful river that was vibrant and was the centre of a community," he said.

With files from Information Morning Moncton, Vanessa Blanch