St. John Valley Tech students visit international bridge job site
MADAWASKA, Maine — Clad in reflective vests and bright orange hardhats, seven students from St. John Valley Technological Center’s heavy equipment operation class visited the future site of the Madawaska-Edmundston international bridge on April 26 to hear about the project from Reed & Reed project superintendent Greg Letourneau.
Right now, the future location of the U.S. abutment of the 1,400-foot bridge is just an empty lot, dropping off in a rocky slope to the river. But the students huddled around the site nonetheless, rain dripping off the fronts of their hardhats, listening closely to an hour-long discussion of the job.
Letourneau encouraged the students to continue pursuing an education in equipment operation.
“The demand is unbelievable for operators,” Letourneau said. “I love having young and willing folks.”
The group discussed many of the details that make this particular construction project difficult. For one, Reed & Reed is under a strict mandate to be sure all equipment is out of the river during annual ice-outs. Plus, according to Letourneau, sourcing construction materials has been difficult during the pandemic — work trailers, for example, are especially hard to come by.
Reed & Reed also has to balance Canadian travel restrictions — quarantine requirements for those crossing the border as well as strict limitations on U.S. workers building on the Canadian side of the border.
After the presentation, student Recce Pelletier said he found the project “really cool” and “very large scale.” Working in an environment that’s hands-on is important for him — one of thereasons he’s been drawn to the heavy equipment operation program.
His fellow students agreed, one piping up that the good pay that comes with heavy machinery jobs didn’t hurt either.
“I appreciate your honesty,” teacher Mike Berube said, laughing.
Reed & Reed plan to begin the project in earnest in the coming weeks, with the construction of an access road. The day of the visit, the company received its first shipments of modular crane parts.
The company has been working with local road construction company Ed Pelletier & Sons and also plans to hire local contractors for the job. On April 19, Reed & Reed hosted a job fair in Madawaska — Letourneau said of the 40 applicants, the vast majority highly-qualified for the work, and that he would have no trouble finding enough local workers for the project.