McDonald's is abutted on three sides by construction on the new Land Port of Entry and International Bridge projects. Credit: Hannah Catlin / St. John Valley Times

MADAWASKA, Maine — A McDonald’s is the last building standing in the way of construction on the $44.5 million land port of entry project in Madawaska. Now surrounded on three sides by preliminary earthwork, the fast food restaurant is still open for business and hiring.

McDonald’s makes up part of the lot where the U.S. General Services Administration plans to put the new port of entry, but the agency is still in the process of acquiring the property, Public Affairs Officer Alison Kohler said. For now, the government and construction company J&J Contractors will work around the business.

Workers at McDonald’s said they remain unsure how long their jobs will be intact, but the sign at the front of the restaurant still reads “NOW HIRING ALL SHIFTS.”

The federal agency declined to comment further on the negotiations, which have been ongoing for at least four months. The government announced its plans to acquire the McDonald’s in the fall of 2019, and bought its neighbors’ properties.

The negotiations have not stopped progress on the project, though. Next door, a lot that used to contain several small houses has been bulldozed flat, and J&J Construction and the federal government have moved work trailers into the lot.

The company plans to begin cut and fill work this summer and is hiring local contractors for carpentry, concrete and equipment operation, Kohler said.

Meanwhile, the $97 million international bridge project, which is the purview of the Maine Department of Transportation and the New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure, has continued unimpeded.

The current bridge between Madawaska and Edmnundston, New Brunswick, was built in 1921, and has posted a five ton weight limit since 2017.

Reed & Reed, the lead construction company on the project, has finished building access roads and begun to install a work trestle in the St. John River. The temporary structure it is building now will be used during the construction of the final bridge.

As Reed & Reed builds from the American river bank, Greenfield Construction of New Brunswick, a subcontractor, is building from the Canadian side, a strategy the companies will continue to use throughout the project to accommodate international building restrictions.

The permanent construction in the river could begin as soon as this week, project superintendent Greg Letourneau said.

Clarification: As of now, the construction is continuing on-schedule. Negotiations are ongoing, but the government maintains the right to take the land by eminent domain, if needed.

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Hannah Catlin

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