From The St. Croix Courier, September 26, 2006
By KATHY BOCKUS
CALAIS – It’s official!
The final building hurdle has been cleared for the construction of a third international bridge crossing the St. Croix River from St. Stephen to Calais.
On Friday, the Maine Department of Transportation (MaineDOT) announced that it had received the last permit necessary to begin the construction process. The final permit came from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Advertisements for contractors’ bids are expected to go out very soon and speculation is that an international ground breaking ceremony could be held in a little over one month’s time.
“We’re extremely pleased,” said St. Stephen Mayor Bob Brown.
“We always knew it was coming, there’s no question about that.”
He called the announcement “like a special, early Christmas gift.”
“We’ve waited 30 to 40 years for this. Many people in the community have waited that long for it (the third bridge) to be a reality,” said the mayor.
“All our hard work has paid off,” said a happy Charlotte-Campobello MLA Tony Huntjens.
“It took a great team. The bridge committee worked extremely hard on this as well as all the people in the community. After so many years of talking about a new bridge, we finally got one.”
Meanwhile, Maine Governor John E, Baldacci in a statement issued by MaineDOT, called the announcement “excellent news for Washington County.”
“A modern, efficient border crossing will be a major new asset for Maine’s east-west transportation corridor and the regional economy on both sides of the border.”
He said the project came together because of the efforts of many people in both Maine and New Brunswick.
After thanking the Maine congressional delegation that helped bring about the needed funding to build the new bridge, the new 50 acre, $40 million U.S. border station facility and the $11 million in road improvements to Route #1 in Calais, Governor Baldacci thanked former New Brunswick Premier Bernard Lord, his provincial government and the municipality of St. Stephen “for their part in making this project a reality.”
Mayor Brown said the town played an extensive role in bringing the third bridge project to completion, noting that he, as well as local MLA Tony Huntjens and MP Greg Thompson, Minister of Veterans Affairs, created the Maine-New Brunswick Southern Trade Corridor Committee to push through the third bridge project.
He said the committee was capably chaired by St. Stephen resident Jim Purcell, “who did a tremendous job.”
Mayor Brown said he was pleased to hear Maine was still aiming at a completion date in 2008.
“I would expect it will be a tight deadline,” he said.
The mayor noted that this bridge would be the first new bridge between Canada and the United States in about 30 years.
“With all the emphasis on technology and security, we’re going to have the most modern bridge there is,” said Mayor Brown.
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He said the new U.S. border facility and the new $13 to $20 million Canadian Customs border facility “should be able to handle that traffic properly and effectively,” leaving the Ferry Point bridge to become what he has always referred to as “our local trade bridge.”
Mayor Brown said the third bridge would be a great advantage to the town in other ways besides diverting heavy traffic away from the town’s downtown core.
He said the municipality would reap the tax benefits of the new Canadian Border Services Agency facility and is already talking to that agency about providing water and sewer hook ups.
“That’s a big boon in the terms of tax base for us,” explained the mayor.
He said there was no doubt the third bridge would divert traffic away from the town.
“In the long run, the town will benefit tremendously, but at the same time, we’re bypassed, and we’re going to miss that traffic going through, there’s no question about that, the take outs, the small restaurants the gift shops.
“But it’s a great boon to get the trucks off streets,” said the mayor who stated the town now had to work on acquiring signage to attract tourists off highway.
He indicated the town might soon have to start work on a “bigger plan” for the “post bridge era.”
Calais City Manager Linda Pagels said it had been a long road that culminated in last week’s bridge announcement, but reminded everyone that “projects these size take a while.”
She was very pleased with the announcement made possible, she said, by the work of the trade corridor committee members and other groups “who have worked so hard to make this happen and stayed on to watch to make sure it followed through.”
“They have our gratitude,” said Pagels.
Pagels said the third bridge would be located in the Calais Industrial Park. When asked what she thought would now become of the Friends of the Magurrewock, a vocal group of Washington County residents who vehemently opposed the chosen site, Pagels said, “I admire their spunk, energy commitment and focus and I hope they remain involved in the community in some way, and find a project they can advance in the community.”
“They certainly have demonstrated they have the skills to get a project noticed,” said Pagels.
“Although I disagree with them (over the location of the bridge), they have very valuable skills that could be of use to their community and I hope they stay involved in some way as individuals.”