Gov. Janet Mills at the site of the Madawaska-Edmundston International Bridge on Aug. 15, 2022. Credit: Jessica Potila / St. John Valley Times

MADAWASKA, Maine — The new Madawaska-Edmundston International Bridge will make it easier for goods to pass between the United States and Canada, Gov. Janet Mills said when she toured the construction site on Monday.

The current International bridge that connects Madawaska and Edmundston, New Brunswick, was built in 1921 and is about 20 years beyond its anticipated lifespan.

The bridge has had a 5-ton weight limit on it since 2017 due to safety concerns, and the Maine Department of Transportation is building a replacement. The weight limit has forced truckers to take less direct routes to make their deliveries between the two countries.

Construction on the Madawaska-Edmunston International Bridge is on time, and on budget as of Aug. 15, 2022. Credit: Jessica Potila / St. John Valley Times

The new structure is expected to last at least 100 years and will include a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection land port of entry being built on the U.S. side of the international border.

The new bridge is essential to ensure the safety of all who travel between the two borders as well as vital to supporting the economy of northern Maine, Mills said.

She pointed out that Twin Rivers Paper, which is a key source of employment for many St. John Valley residents, has been hindered by weight limit restrictions on the current bridge when it comes to transporting products between the United States and Canada.

“We can’t tolerate that,” Mills said on Monday. “We have to do everything we can to keep the mill here, to keep it effective and productive. It provides so many jobs directly and indirectly to the people of The County and this bridge is an important part of that.”

The total project cost for the new bridge will be about $97.5 million. The project received a $36 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding American grant from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and the remaining costs are being shared by MaineDOT and New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

“This project also involves detailed coordination with federal agencies in both the United States and Canada,” according to a press release from Mills’ office.

DOT representative and resident engineer Phil Roberts said bridge construction is on schedule and on budget.

The new bridge is expected to be ready for traffic in December 2023, although the project will not be finalized until the demolition of the old International Bridge in June 2025.

Gov. Janet Mills looks over the site map for the Madawaska-Edmundston International Bridge. From left, are, Gary Picard, Madawaska town manager, Gov. Janet Mills, Rep. Roland “Danny Martin”, Rep. John Martin, and Senate President Troy Jackson. Credit: Jessica Potila / St. John Valley Times

The governor also visited the University of Maine at Fort Kent Acadian Archives on Monday, marking World Acadian Day.

On Aug. 15 of each year, Acadians from all over the world celebrate their survival despite mass executions and deportations of those living in eastern Canada by the British in the 18th century.

Mills also met Monday with municipal officials from Madawaska, Van Buren, Fort Kent and Presque Isle to discuss the Maine Department of Transportation’s Village Partnership Initiative, in which DOT works with local officials to revitalize town centers and promote people- and business-friendly features within them.

Mills, a Democrat, faces former Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, in the November election.