Big Decisions Pending on Key Canadian Bridge

The Champlain Bridge, a bottleneck on one of Canadian's busiest arteries, will be increasingly expensive to maintain in coming years, engineers warned. Quebec's premier wants the federal government to participate in choosing how to replace it.

Everyone agrees the Champlain Bridge, a bottleneck on one of Canadian's busiest arteries, soon must be replaced. Less settled is how to do it and who will pay.

The bridge will be increasingly expensive to maintain in coming years, engineers warned in a February 2011 report that has just been made public, Canadian newspapers reported. The report says annual maintenance that would prolong its life will rise from $18 million to $25 million during the next 10 years "without in any way improving the level of seismic performance or rehabilitating the bridge deck. The maintenance work," it continues, "will become increasingly extensive and complex and require increasingly long lane closures and ever greater inconvenience for users."

Quebec's premier, Jean Charest, told reporters Aug. 18 that the federal government should participate in choosing whether to replace the aging bridge with a $1.3 billion new bridge or a $1.9 billion tunnel. Charest reiterated that he wants mass transit included on a modern bridge.

"It's one of the busiest bridges in Canada. [We] need a clear message that includes public transit on the Champlain Bridge," Charest said, according to a report in The Globe and Mail. The Ottawa government has yet to commit, however, with the transport minister saying only that the government is studying all options, the newspaper reported.

Demolishing the existing bridge will cost about $155 million, according to the report. Its authors said the bridge is a major link in the major highway network of the Montreal metropolitan region, and it "plays a very important role in trucking and especially in the transportation of dangerous goods," they wrote.

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