Monday, September 21, 2009

Champlain Bridge, Fix it, Rebuild New, or Tunnel ......?either way it's a lot of Do-Re-Mi

Fix the current Champlain Bridge, tear it down and build a new one or replace it with a tunnel.

All three options are on the table after the federal agency that operates the Champlain Bridge and Transport Quebec on Monday announced the launch of a “pre-feasibility study” on the span’s future.

The study will look at the estimated price stags of the various options. It will also consider how public transit could be integrated into the new structure to link Montreal with the South Shore. One option would be to dedicate two of a new bridge's lanes to electric light-rail trains.

It has been estimated a new bridge would cost about $1 billion.

But don’t expect an easier commute in the near future. The study is to be completed by September but it would take about 15 years before a new structure could be put in place, officials have said.

In May, even as it started a 10-year, $212-million repair job on the bridge, Ottawa said it was opening bids for the study.

On Monday, it was announced that Consortium BCDE got the $1.4-million one-year contract; the federal Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated and Transport Quebec will split the cost of the study.

The repairs, which got under way in April, will extend to about 2035 the life of the 47-year-old Champlain, Canada's busiest bridge with 60 million vehicles using it annually.

"The Champlain Bridge is a strategic axis in the economic well being of Montreal," federal Public Works Minister Christian Paradis said in a statement. "We are pleased to contribute to this study which will help determine the best option for the future of this corridor."

Quebec Transport Minister Julie Boulet said the study is the “first phase toward improving commuter service and the road network between Montreal and the South Shore."

The Champlain Bridge is constructed of pre-stressed concrete beams supported by concrete piers. The bridge's particular construction, the effects of corrosion from road salt and the high volume of truck traffic have contributed to the aging of this structure, official said.

The Agence métropolitaine de transport, the Quebec agency that coordinates regional public transit, operates reserved lanes on the Champlain on which buses carry 18,000 passengers daily

The AMT wants to extend the hours of reserved bus lanes on the bridge in order to improve public transit and reduce but the federal agency that operates the bridge says extra reserved-lane time would be too disruptive to repairs and maintenance constantly required on the bridge.

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