CALAIS – City officials announced Thursday that an $11.5 million contract has been awarded to Cianbro Corp. to build a third bridge in the city.
Bids were open for phase one of the project Wednesday.
A groundbreaking ceremony is planned for December.
Construction is expected to begin next year, City Manager Linda Pagels said Friday.
The state Department of Transportation held a pre-utility meeting Thursday for the remaining phase of the border-crossing project. Bids are expected to be released on that as soon as next week.
“Isn’t that tremendous?” Mayor Vinton Cassidy said Friday. “I am looking forward to that start.”
Pagels said she also was pleased. “I think there’s a lot of benefits for the whole region,” she said. She said people have worked hard on the project. It took years and hundreds of meetings between federal, state and local people before the Calais site was selected.
Once completed, the bridge that is expected to cost more than $100 million would cross the St. Croix River and connect Calais with St. Stephen, New Brunswick. Currently two bridges connect the two communities: the downtown Ferry Point Bridge and the Milltown Bridge, near the city’s Industrial Park.
Not everyone is happy with the Calais location.
A group called Friends of Magurrewock decided they didn’t like the process, so they plan to sue in federal court. They want the bridge in Baileyville.
They have pressed their case with every state and federal agency, at times calling the process and the people involved “compromised and corrupted” and “cowardly and corrupt.”
At one time, two sites in Baileyville had been considered, but were later rejected in favor of the Calais location.
At a meeting earlier this month with the Baileyville Town Council, the Friends group said it needed the services of a qualified wetlands expert to counter the state expert, but said it didn’t have the money to hire one. The town agreed to pick up the tab.
The majority of councilors voted to hire a wetlands expert to study two sites in Baileyville – one at the end of Route 9 at the former Airline Restaurant and Motel and farther along Route 1 near the Cole garage – to ascertain if they would be better locations. The majority members agreed to spend up to $3,500 of town money to accomplish it.
The mayor said it was too bad Baileyville residents did not support Calais’ efforts. “I said in all sincerity that I do think that there’s some people who’re out of touch with reality and I jokingly said it’s a virus because the town council has joined as well. I can’t imagine me, if I was on a town council, wasting $3,500, but that’s their decision,” he said.
Cassidy rejected the idea that the Friends group could scuttle the Calais project or possibly keep any bridge from being built. “That’s never going to happen,” he said. “It’s going to be built.”
Pagels said she believed Baileyville’s wetland mapping would be useful to the town for something other than a bridge, but agreed it was a “shame to waste taxpayers dollars.”
Baileyville Town Manager Scott Harriman said Friday this latest announcement would not alter the town’s plans of hiring a wetlands expert. He said town officials planned to move forward.