On Saturday, Fredericton's iconic Bill Thorpe Walking Bridge, which spans the Saint John River, reopened after months of construction. Following a closure in September for safety repairs in which its entire deck was replaced, its return has residents rejoicing.
"They would all rot over the years, so they stripped it right down to the steel, cleaned the steel up, put a concrete deck on and then the wood planking on top of it,” says Fredericton Mayor, Mike O’Brien. “So it's the steel bridge, concrete deck, wood decking and all new rails on the side."
Hundreds gathered for the reopening of the bridge – a main artery connecting the north and south side of the city.
"600,000 people a year use that bridge either bicycling, walking, skateboarding jogging, families young and old,” says New Brunswick Environment Minister, Jeff Carr. “It encapsulates everybody."
Those who use the bridge on a regular basis say it has been a long four months of waiting.
"Every day, we usually get our exercise walking over the bridge, and we haven't been able to do that, so we had to switch up our route,” says resident Thomas Somer. “But the other roads aren't nearly as scenic."
The cost of the refurbishment project was $3.9M – with support from all levels of government.
"Between each of those three parties – the municipality, federal and provincial – we all put in $1.3M," says Fredericton North MLA, Stephen Horsman.
In addition, the province spent another $400,000 on concrete piers.
Many residents at the grand reopening reflected with before and after pictures on how far the bridge has come since the historic railway crossing.
"Well, it means an important part of my life in terms of I walk it every day or bike it every day,” says resident, Daniel Gleason. “It's a means of exercise."
And celebrations continued well into the evening with a fireworks display at 6:30 p.m. to commemorate the momentous occasion.