New Madawaska border crossing to open in mid-March

3 months ago

MADAWASKA, Maine – Madawaska’s new Land Port of Entry, which will connect to a new bridge leading into Canada, is expected to open to traffic by mid-March of next year. 

The new port of entry and bridge project has been decades in the making, according to a Tuesday release from the U.S. General Services Administration. It began in the early 2000s when officials on both the United States and Canadian side of the border noted that the bridge was approaching 100 years old. The two countries worked together on a way to upgrade the bridge without substantially interrupting traffic.

At the same time, the GSA, Department of Homeland Security, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection also began planning to replace the Madawaska port of entry, which was built in 1959. The port had no room for expansion, lacked office and inspection space and did not meet the CBP’s continually evolving needs, according to the GSA.

When the $65 million port of entry project is complete, GSA officials say it will house administration, training staff, staff support, processing support, enforcement support, agricultural inspection, building support, inspection support areas, and training facilities. It will also be energy efficient and sustainable, certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. 

“Through multiple iterations in planning, changing requirements and supply chain issues caused by a worldwide pandemic, GSA worked diligently to deliver the residents of Madawaska and Edmundston, and the entire region, a long-term, safe and efficient flow of current and projected traffic volumes,” Glenn C. Rotondo, Region 1 Public Buildings Service Commissioner, said.

The new port is being built at the same time as a new bridge connecting the two countries. This bridge will run diagonally, arriving at the same Canadian border facility as the old bridge, which ran straight across the St. John River.

The bridge project was awarded to contractor Reed & Reed, who had the lowest bid at $86,532,251. The total project, which includes demolition of the existing bridge, is estimated to cost $97.5 million. 

The old bridge, due to its age and condition, was posted at five tons in 2017. This forced large trucks to travel roughly an extra half hour to cross at either the Fort Kent or Van Buren borders. And though the new port will open to traffic in mid-March, it will be done with lane restrictions as contractors demolish the existing abutment on the Canadian side. As a result, the new bridge and port will be posted with the same five-ton restriction until early May of 2024.

Maine DOT Commissioner Bruce Van Note said in the GSA release that the new bridge is one of the biggest and most complicated projects on the department’s work plan. 

“This international crossing is an integral part of our transportation system that serves Aroostook County and the entire state,” he said. “We are proud of the progress we have made with our partners on the bridge project; our bridge is part of a broader transportation system, and our team is part of a larger team working to improve this critical border connection.”