Local officials are worried that recently discovered structural damage to the secondary truck inspection site on the Canadian side of the Ferry Point Bridge could mean additional traffic delays this summer.

Calais’ public safety committee plans to discuss the matter at 4 p.m. today.

Canadian officials confirmed Thursday that deteriorating structural beams on the deck at the station will require the rerouting of truck traffic. The area normally handles six fully loaded tractor-trailers entering Canada, but under the new plan only one tractor-trailer will be handled at a time.

The secondary-truck inspection area, which includes a warehouse with six bays and an inspection office, is to the right of the country’s entry point. Now, trucks pass through the customs check station and turn left into the secondary inspection area.

Two bridges connect Calais with neighboring St. Stephen, New Brunswick — the downtown Ferry Point Bridge and the Milltown Bridge near the city’s industrial park. A third bridge is under construction in the city, but it is not expected to open to commercial traffic until sometime next year.
Rory Matchett, provincial director for Public Works and Government Services Canada, said Thursday that the problem was discovered in the past two weeks. He said his agency was waiting to hear from its structural engineers.

“We noticed some structural damage visually, so we’ve hired some structural engineers to review it,” he said. “In the meantime we have taken the steps to ensure the safety of motorists by restricting the trucks on that structure.”

Laurie Gillmore, spokeswoman for the Canada Border Services Agency, said Wednesday that Canadian officials were working with Calais and U.S. officials to come up with some solutions.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Ted Woo confirmed Thursday that Canadian officials were handling the issue, and said his agency was working with them.

Asked whether the majority of trucks going into Canada would be switched to the Milltown Bridge, Gillmore said her agency was looking at options. She did not elaborate.

“The free flow of traffic is absolutely paramount, but public safety is a huge concern. And we felt that, yes, this is an inconvenience and a busy time is coming up, and that is why we are working quickly to look at various options,” she said.

Calais City Manager Diane Barnes confirmed Thursday that she has had several telephone conference calls with Canadian officials as well as the Maine Department of Transportation.

Barnes said she has learned from Canadian officials that plans call for rerouting some of the commercial traffic across the Milltown Bridge and into a secondary inspection site that will be set up at the Milltown industrial park in St. Stephen.

Barnes said that change would mean improvements would need to be done on the Calais side, including new signs and work on the road leading to the bridge to include new stripes.

Traffic will be a problem in the city this summer in addition to the rerouting of trucks.

Vehicles crossing Routes 9 and 1 through the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge will experience delays because of construction there for the new bridge.

Drivers traveling South Street will face major delays once work begins on that road.