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Saint John to review project that caused massive traffic chaos

By Brad Perry May 28, 2024 | 6:29 AM

Frustration from Saint John councillors over Monday morning’s traffic headaches on the west side of the city.

Third-party work was underway to replace a private rail crossing located along Chesley Drive heading into Ocean Steel.

But the project, which was supposed to be done by 7 a.m. to avoid rush hour traffic, was not completed until nearly noon.

That left hundreds of motorists on their way to work, school, and appointments at a standstill, causing plenty of frustration.

Councillor Brent Harris, one of several councillors who spoke at Monday night’s meeting, believes the city should look at issuing fines.

“With the Harbour Bridge tied up the way it is, this is life or death in many cases, so it would be my position to pursue a little more draconian approach to this,” said Harris.

Deputy Mayor John MacKenzie said the companies involved in the work need to be held accountable for what he described as an “unacceptable” situation.

“The problems that caused, I could just imagine how many people were heading for the hospital and couldn’t get there, heading for schools and were late,” said MacKenzie.

RELATED: Rail crossing replacement causes traffic headaches

A spokesperson for New Brunswick Southern Railway said they were contracted by Ocean Steel to replace the private rail crossing.

Anne McInerney said in an email that their portion of the work was completed Sunday night, as they had committed to do, and directed all other questions to Ocean Steel.

In a statement, Ocean Steel said crews worked diligently over the weekend to ensure all the work was completed by 7 a.m. Monday.

“Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, this goal was not met, and the road was closed until approximately 11:00 a.m. today,” said the statement.

“We understand this caused significant disruption, and we sincerely apologize to the travelling public and members of our community for causing this inconvenience.”

Other councillors also expressed frustration with the ongoing Harbour Bridge construction, which has been causing bottlenecks for west side residents for the past several years.

Coun. Greg Norton said he believes that bridge repair work should be taking place 24/7, similar to how some projects are being done in other cities.

“One can’t help but think how the Princess Margaret Bridge has 24/7 construction going on,” he said, referring to a weeks-long project underway on the Fredericton bridge.

Meanwhile, Tim O’Reilly, the public works director for the City of Saint John, said they will conduct an after-action review with the companies involved in the Chesley Drive project to ensure a situation like this does not happen again.