CLAIR (CNB) – The bridge between Clair, N.B., and Fort Kent, ME, will be replaced by the provincial and state governments, Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Claude Williams announced today.

"This bridge is a vital link for local residents, and for industrial users in New Brunswick who rely on it to transport goods into the U.S.," said Williams. "Its replacement is a priority for our government, and we plan to start construction this year."

Construction of the new bridge will begin once all environmental and regulatory approvals have been obtained by both governments. Costs for the project, including removal of the existing structure, will be shared between the two jurisdictions.

In addition to a new bridge, the two governments have also developed a plan to have truck traffic return on the existing structure.

Since early January, a 2.7-tonne weight restriction has been in place, after the Maine Department of Transportation evaluated its portion of the bridge and determined a restriction was necessary.

Crews with both provincial and state departments of Transportation will install automated traffic signals and signage to allow two-way traffic for cars, and one-way traffic for vehicles more than  3.6 tonnes, 24 hours a day. Once those measures are in place, it is expected the bridge will be reopened to all traffic on Feb. 4.

"Since the restriction in early January, our two governments have been working closely to ensure traffic can flow once again," said Williams. "We have also consulted extensively with municipal officials and the business community to ensure that we take their needs into consideration."