A complete structure now exists across the span of the new International Bridge in Madawaska. Credit: Courtesy of Maine Department of Transportation

MADAWASKA, Maine — Construction on the $97 million Madawaska International Bridge reached a significant milestone this week when workers completed the steel framework.

The new 1,800 foot bridge extends diagonally across the St. John River to Edmundston, New Brunswick.

The existing century-old bridge is still in use, though a weight limit was imposed in 2017. Since then trucks carrying more than 5 tons have sought alternate border crossings. The new structure will allow goods to move more easily between the two countries, Gov. Janet Mills said when she visited the site in August.

“Right now we have a superstructure,” Andrew Lathe of the Maine Department of Transportation said Friday.  

The visually magnificent bridge appears as a crossing of sorts from a distance, but there are only steel beams to walk on, Lathe said.

The bridge should be ready to accommodate traffic sometime in late 2023 or early 2024, he said.

The Maine Department of Transportation and the New Brunswick Department of Transportation and Infrastructure are leading the project.

The current International bridge was built in 1921 and is about 20 years beyond its anticipated lifespan.

The 950-foot 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.

Workers are completing details on the steelwork, including stability elements and utility attachments, Lathe said. Then concrete decks will be formed, a project which will likely last through spring.  

The General Services Administration is also building a $44.5 million land port of entry in Madawaska. The administration’s acquisition and demolition of the town’s McDonald’s restaurant sparked public outcry, but the building came down last April.

The International Bridge project continues without any major hitches, according to Lathe.

“There’s been great cooperation between both land port of entries and with the contractors and with the rail lines that are out there to really get this project moving in the direction to keep us on schedule,” Lathe said.

He said weather has been favorable during bridge construction, even during winter.