The weight limit for vehicles crossing the international bridge spanning the St. John River between Madawaska and Edmundston, seen in this July 2017 file photo, remains at 5 tons. Credit: Linda Pelletier / St. John Valley-Times

MADAWASKA, Maine — Woolwich construction company Reed & Reed Inc. has won the Maine Department of Transportation contract for the construction of the new Madawaska international bridge between the U.S. and Canada slated to begin this spring.

The project, which Reed & Reed evaluated at $86,532,251, will take approximately three years to finish and will coincide with construction of a new Land Port of Entry, also in Madawaska. Reed & Reed’s cost estimate, which was the lowest of three bids, exceeds previous estimates of the cost of this project by $10 million.

The existing bridge is 100 years old this year. In 2020, MDOT said it was in “critical condition.” Since 2017, the bridge has posted a 5-ton weight limit, forcing many trucks into a detour.

The total costs to build the new bridge and demolish the old one will exceed $97 million, funded in part by a $36 million grant from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration as well as MDOT and New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Overseen jointly by MDOT and NBDTI, the new bridge will provide a link between two countries that have been separated for more than a year now due to Covid-19 travel restrictions. The bridge will cross the river at a 45 degree angle and stretch nearly double the length of the existing structure, ending roughly 1,400 feet upstream in Canada from its U.S. origin.

Traffic is slated to move to the new bridge in the fall or winter of 2023, and the old bridge is to be demolished in 2024. Final touches on construction should be complete by June 2025, the end of the Reed & Reed contract.

Reed & Reed CEO Jackson Parker said the company would look to hire locally “as much as possible,” according to the MDOT.

The bridge construction will coincide with the construction of a new Land Port of Entry in Madawaska, a project overseen by the U.S. General Services Administration, which will also begin this year.

In February, U.S. Customs and Border Protection public affairs officer Mike Niezgoda said that while no new officers will be brought to Madawaska to oversee the projects, security precautions are built into international construction projects.

Meghan Russo, MDOT manager of legislative and constituent services, said that many of the details of the bridge project — including a precise start date and how the project will navigate the still-closed border — haven’t been finalized between Reed & Reed and MDOT.

A Reed & Reed representative was not immediately available to comment further.

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Hannah Catlin

Hannah Catlin is a reporter at the St. John Valley Times/Fiddlehead Focus in Madawaska, Maine.