Once it is complete next year, the new Madawaska-Edmundston International Bridge (left) will replace the old bridge (right) to connect Madawaska, Maine and Edmundston New Brunswick across the St. John River. Credit: Courtesy of Deschaine Digital

MADAWASKA, Maine — The new Madawaska-Edmundston International Bridge is taking a distinctive shape. The structure is diagonal across the St. John River instead of straight across like the current bridge.

The bridge connects Edmundston’s port of entry with the new customs station being built in Madawaska. Both new structures are expected to be operational by the end of 2023.

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. Construction of the new international bridge began in September 2021.

An aerial view of the international bridge in Madawaska.
A new Madawaska Land Port of Entry is taking shape. Credit: Courtesy of Deschaine Digital

Madawaska is New England’s third busiest port of entry in automobile traffic and sixth busiest in truck traffic, according to the U.S. General Services Administration. The weight limit imposed on the old bridge has affected regular truck routes.

As a result of its diagonal positioning over the river, the new bridge, at 1,800 feet long, is nearly twice as long as the existing 950-foot structure it will replace, which extends straight across the river to Edmunston.  

The longer, diagonal bridge was necessary in order to allow it to connect to a new U.S. Customs and Border Protection port of entry being constructed in Madawaska. It is located where the McDonald’s restaurant once stood.

Built in 1959, the existing Madawaska port of entry has safety, security, circulation and efficiency issues, according to a GSA construction prospectus.

The current customs station could not be expanded due to its proximity to railroad tracks, Twin Rivers Paper Mill and the St. John River. New Brunswick did not want to move its port of entry, so the bridge was made diagonal.

The new bridge is also being built 12 feet wider than the existing bridge. Travel lanes will be 12 feet wide instead of the 10 feet, 4 inches on the current bridge. There also will be 6-foot-wide shoulders on each side. The old bridge has no shoulders, according to Andrew Lathe of the Maine Department of Transportation.

The new bridge dimensions will not affect its longevity, Lathe said. The new structure is expected to last at least 100 years.

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. The remaining costs are being shared by MaineDOT and New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

There is also significant progress at the new port of entry, according to GSA regional public affairs officer Paul Hughes.

“Site work throughout the property has progressed, with underground utilities lines for electrical, drainage and sewer,” Hughes said. “This site work, including a western retaining wall running north to south, is being done concurrently with the running of all the interior utilities lines throughout both buildings so they can be connected to the lines exterior to the buildings and have the slab on grade work ready to go in mid-September.”

The $65 million project is being funded by Congressional appropriations.

The existing Madawaska port of entry, once it is no longer needed, will be reported to GSA’s Real Property Utilization and Disposal Division as being “excess,” Hughes said.

Excess property is first offered to other federal agencies that may be able to use it Hughes said.

“If there is no further need for the property within the federal government, the property is determined ‘surplus’ and may be made available for other uses through public benefit conveyances, negotiated sales, or public sales,” he said.

The new bridge and port of entry are anticipated to be ready for use sometime during the fourth quarter of 2023.