Potential for privatizing Maritime bridge

SAINT JOHN — New Brusnwick Premier Shawn Graham is considering a deal with the federal government that would ultimately privatize the Harbour Bridge.

According to a report in the Telegraph-Journal, a group of companies is prepared to upgrade and maintain Highways 1 and 2 between St. Stephen and Moncton, and Graham wouldn’t mind seeing the Harbour Bridge included in the package.

As of right now, the Harbour Bridge is actually the only portion of the thoroughfare not included in the construction plan. The province however, is currently in discussions with the feds in an effort to obtain ownership of the bridge. Once ownership is transferred to the New Brunswick, the bridge could then be put under control of the private companies.

"We would like to see one complete package if possible," Graham said in a meeting with the Telegraph-Journal‘s editorial board last week. "This is the only component of the highway that would not fall under the P3 model and we have had some preliminary discussions."

Privatization of the bridge leads to a question of tolls, but a solution is still up in the air. Saint John MP Rodney Weston suggested the provincial and federal governments would have to address the debt, upgrades and tolls in one fell swoop with a packaged deal.

According to the Telegraph-Journal, Weston said he wants the province to take control of the bridge, but the outstanding costs of roughly $57 million should be shared by both levels of government.

The planned upgrades of Highways 1 and 2 will expand the routes to a four-lane highway, with the work totaling $420 million, and an expected completion date of 2014.

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