The Trans-Canada Highway in its western portion across New Brunswick (west of Fredericton) follows the route used by Indians, French explorers and then early lumberman. In the 1700s, settlers built rudimentary road systems, and also used riverboats and barges to transport people, animals and goods. Until recent power dams were built, the Saint John River was navigable for 300 km from its mouth at Saint John. (The lowest dam, just west of Fredericton, at Mactaquac) cut that trip). The highway follows the river northwest from Grand Falls to Edmunston, where the river veers toward the US, and for a portion becomes the international boundary, and then the route follows the Madawasca River and an early portage route to the St Lawrence River into Quebec.
When the route of the Trans-Canada Highway was defined in about 1950, it did not follow Route 2 via Saint John between Fredericton and Sussex, but took the more direct Route 9. Through the late 1950s and 1960s, a number of bypasses and realignments, mostly two-lane, were built to improve Route 2 with federal Trans-Canada Highway funds.
Route 2 initially followed local roads from the NB-Quebec interprovincial boundary to Edmundston and down the Saint John River Valley to Grand Falls. There, it crossed to the west bank of the Saint John River, and continued south to Florenceville where it crossed to the east bank to continue to Hartland, then re-crossed the river to the west bank which it followed to Fredericton in a southeast direction.
Premier McKenna viewed Route 2 (the Trans-Canada Highway) in New Brunswick as important to Atlantic Canada’s highway traffic with the U.S. and central Canada,and because of the 1989 NAFTA trade agreements, partially a federal responsibility.
At the same time, the federal government approved several key railway line abandonments in the Maritimes during the 1980s, which significantly increased highway traffic growth on New Brunswick highways in the 1990s. That led to an aggressive program of four-laning the entire route through the province. There would also be a 4-lane connection from Woodstock to I-95 in Maine.
In 2007, New Brunswick celebrated the official opening of the last 98 kilometres of the four-lane Trans-Canada Highway (Route 2) in the province. The entire 516 kilometres of highway from the Nova Scotia border to the Quebec border is now a divided, four-lane highway.
Here are some history notes, organized by Itinerary Segment (from west to east):
New Brunswick Map