Montreal’s New Bridge
It goes without saying that Montreal’s winters are long and severe, not for the faint of heart. But while we cover ourselves in our coats, struggle to trudge up Rue Peel without slipping, and see just how far the Underground City will take us, it is easy to forget the other, even more vulnerable victims of nos hivers: Montreal’s infrastructure. And nobody is suffering more than the Champlain Bridge.
The ruthless assault of the cold and the salt with which the bridge is covered every season take their toll on the structure. In 2011, according to the CBC, it was revealed via two leaked engineering reports that portions of the bridge were in states of severe structural deterioration; the reports resolved that “a partial or complete collapse of the bridge should not be ruled out.” It was then announced that $158 million would be devoted to repair programs for the bridge. In 2013, a crack was found in the bridge’s structure, resulting in closures and delays.
Surprisingly enough, to those of us who witness with great ire the slow work being conducted on Rue McTavish, authorities have been quick to respond to the need for a new St. Lawrence crossing. In 2011, it was officially announced that a new bridge would be constructed, and in 2013 the completion date was confirmed for 2018–that’s right, Montreal, you could have a new bridge by the end of next year. Until then, officials have assured the public that the existing bridge is safe to use.
According to CJAD news, the new bridge will be toll free; however, this means that the construction of the bridge will represent a net financial loss for the government. The total cost of the new crossing is predicted to be $2.15 billion; the project will reportedly employ 1,000 construction workers and a multitude of subcontractors both within Canada and without, according to the new bridge’s website. The project’s environmentally-minded nature has also been touted; it is planned that fish jetties will be installed at the bridges west jetty near Île-des-Sœurs to protect aquatic wildlife that would otherwise be impacted by the crossing’s construction. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the new bridge, however, is its integration into Montreal’s planned light rail system, the Réseau électrique métropolitain, itself slated to begin operations in 2020.
However, much uncertainty remains with regard to the undertaking; whether or not PM Trudeau’s toll-free plan is really in the best interest of the public purse and whether the bridge will open on time (late projects seeming to be a chronic issue in this city) remain to be seen. Trouble is already brewing. According to a CBC article published in March, a lawsuit has been brought against the federal government by the Signature on the Saint Lawrence (SSL) consortium, apparently because the organization, which is supervising the construction project, had not been warned of weight restrictions on the previous bridge, which impacted its delivery of materials to the worksite. As a result, SSL warned that the bridge may not be completed by the end of 2018. The Sherbrooke Times reports that, as of this month, Infrastructure Canada believes that they will still be able to complete the bridge on time.
One way or another, Ville-Marie has a new Laurentian crossing coming its way. Until then, maybe I’ll take the Jacques-Cartier. Just in case.