Bridge Street overhaul delay cause for unnessary inconvenience

Town of Sackville optimistic for reopen of Bridge Street by end of September

Visitors to and residents of downtown Sackville will have to weather the gravel and construction din on Bridge St. as infrastructure overhaul continues into its thirteenth week. The $1-million project to fix aging infrastructure was initially intended to span just eight weeks.
“With construction projects of this nature there are some surprises and things that you try to control, but unfortunately you hit pipes you don’t mean to,” said Jamie Burke, the town’s senior manager of corporate projects. Bowsers Construction Ltd., the main contractor for the project, has experienced a water-main break and also hit an unmarked fibreop-cable line, which markedly slowed construction progress. There were also additional days lost due to weather. “There was good progress, when weather permitted,” said Burke.
Construction on Bridge St. began in June of this summer. Much of the funding for the changes to Bridge St. was provided by the province of New Brunswick, as Bridge St. is a designated highway. As much as $300,000 will be covered by Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency with the town covering the remainder of the cost.
“[Town of Sackville] has done a complete overhaul of Bridge Street. Bowsers Construction Ltd. completed the new storm, sewer and water systems underneath Bridge St.,” said Burke. However the street itself remains unpaved. Burke said the next steps of the project include finishing laying down concrete for the sidewalks, asphalting the road, and installing new light fixtures along the north side of the street. Further improvements include a pedestrian plaza located in front of the currently-in-renovation Salvation Army at the corner of Bridge and Weldon Streets. The plans for the pedestrian plaza feature a large paved area with increased seating and decorative structures.
Bridge St.’s sewer, storm and water systems had never been renewed prior to this revamp and construction became crucial to Sackville’s infrastructure. Although the construction is a necessity, it has caused some concern for local business owners. Tomo Na of the Bridge Street Café commented to the CBC this summer: “[The construction] hurts because it’s summer, so there are a lot of tourists that go by.”
Jon Claytor, owner of Thunder and Lightning, also commented on the effects Bridge St.’s construction has had on his business. “[The construction] has had a huge impact over the course of the summer on this business and all businesses. We are all lucky to still be open, but I think we have a core of very supportive people who have kept the [Thunder and Lightning] going over the course of the summer,” Claytor said.
Burke said he would like to emphasize the “importance of business as usual” for the restaurants and storefronts which line Bridge Street. Although the road is closed to vehicles, pedestrian paths will not be closed off entirely and will remain opened until construction is completed. The Town of Sackville has attempted to give residents incentives to continue to shop locally with weekly local draws and a grand-prize draw when the street finally re-opens.
The construction has also impeded Thunder and Lightning’s ability to open their patio over the summer months. “The loss of [the] patio is 50 per cent of our summer business,” said Claytor.
The extended time of construction is also harming businesses in Sackville during a time when many students return for the school year and provide a marked increase in business for store owners. “What would [have] be a great thing for the business with students coming back hasn’t really happened,” said Claytor of the construction’s running late into fall months.
The Town of Sackville attempted to capitalize on the smaller population within summer months to finish this project. Burke said of the time chosen for the project, “There is no great time for construction projects like this […] and we didn’t want to start construction before convocation in May, and we’re under the gun for weather with a small window […] it would have ideally been done before students came back.”
Many students have expressed concern over the amount of time the construction is taking. Mallory Burnside-Holmes, a fourth-year student, has expressed confusion at the extended length of time this project has been underway. “They’ve been doing it for a really long time and maybe they should have been more vocal so we knew what was going on, but instead it looks like nothing is happening,” said Burnside-Holmes.
Third-year student and resident of Bridge St. Chantal Cormier expressed a similar sentiment. “[The construction] doesn’t seem to be making any progress,” she said.
Students living in the apartment above Downtown Diner – Cormier, Sarah Pereira, Logan Doyle and Krista Nix – have expressed concern over the construction in front of their apartment. They were surprised when construction started as they were not notified by their landlord. Construction has made it not only more difficult for the students to enter their building, but they are also concerned that it is more “dangerous to get into the apartment because we have a big step already and now the sidewalk is dug down deeper so the step is like two feet tall,” said Cormier.
Burnside-Holmes additionally commented on the concern for safety for pedestrians along Bridge Street. “Sometimes I don’t feel super safe when I have to walk through but then they don’t really mark off where you can and can’t be, and I’m walking past moving machinery and don’t know if [the construction workers] can see me or not.”
“It’s depressing, isn’t it?” said Claytor of the construction that has disrupted much of Sackville’s daily life.
The major Sackville street is poised to re-open the weekend of Sept. 26, a month later than intended.

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