Commuters advised to avoid Champlain Bridge

By Tracey Arial

The Champlain Bridge authority finished last week advising all commuters to take public transit instead of driving on the bridge they operate.

“The Corporation went to pains to stress all the intangibles and risks of traffic congestion to its partners,” wrote Jean-Vincent Lacroix, Director of Communications on the bridge website. “It is therefore more important than ever to encourage public transit to avoid that traffic.”

That statement was the best advice they had at the end of a week in which they found a two millimetre crack in an outside girder of the bridge. One of three southbound lanes will be closed until at least Dec. 12 to enable the crack to be repaired with carbon fibre.

They then closed the Nuns’ Island Bridge for the weekend. A concrete slab must be repaired prior to the winter freeze. The work will take two more weekends to finish, but those dates haven’t yet been announced.

Politicians then started getting involved.

Denis Lebel, the federal minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs offered his sympathy.

“We are aware of the impact that closing a lane of the Champlain Bridge will have on Montreal-area residents,” he said. “That is why the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated (JCCBI) is cooperating fully with the Government of Quebec, the Agence métropolitaine de transport and the municipalities in order to implement solutions.”

Quebec’s minister of transport Sylvain Gaudreault called all partners affected by the bridge to a meeting Friday.

After that meeting, Gaudreault joined Denis Coderre and Caroline St. Hilaire, the mayors of Montreal and Longueuil for a press statement. Together they announced a 12-step program to alleviate traffic jams. The measures include more metro cars, more buses and free OPUS cards. The province also asked for a million dollars for its light rail project.

One of the solutions was a decision to establish a reserve bus lane. This despite the bridge authority (JCCBI) recommendation that buses continue travelling within traffic as they had been doing since the lane closure Tuesday.

In the meantime, various Montrealers spent the week trying to get the federal government to reconsider tolls, hold a design contest and speed up construction.

The Federal Government responded by announcing the release of another study.

According to Lebel, “the business case for the project, prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers, will be completed within a few weeks. This will represent another major step towards starting construction of the new bridge for the St. Lawrence as soon as possible.”

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