By Tracey Arial
Early last year, Montreal’s board of trade asked for a new Champlain Bridge paid for with tolls.
“We are counting on the federal government to ensure that crossing the new bridge is affordable,” reads their Feb. 20 press release. “And if a toll is required to get the new infrastructure built quickly, let’s go ahead with that.”
It took until the end of the year, but they got what they wanted.
Federal Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs Denis Lebel announced, Dec. 1, that a new Champlain Bridge will be built by 2018. He confirmed tolls as part of the plan even earlier, but his decision was firmed up in November when IBI Group got a million dollar contract to come up with a computer-driven system.
Now Montrealers have to wonder if they’ll need a third transponder.
They already need two now, one for travel on Highway 25 between Montreal and Laval and a separate one to use the Highway 30 ring road. If the Champlain Bridge toll system can’t integrate with one of them, goods delivered to Montreal will be even more expensive than they are now.
There’s already significant frustration with toll collection on Highway 25. Prices range from $1.86 up to $7.63, depending on time and equipment, but drivers don’t know what to expect. A lawsuit launched by the Union des consommateurs on their behalf was certified as a class action last January.
Tolls or not, a new bridge is necessary. The 150,000 drivers crossing the Champlain Bridge daily have always faced some traffic gridlock, but recent repairs have made things worse than ever. Between Oct. 1 and the end of the year, the Quebec Trucking Association distributed 1,863 bulletins warning Montreal-area members about detours, reroutings and closed roads.
Normally they average one or two a day.
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