MONTREAL - Ottawa has for the first time laid out a timeline for construction of the new Champlain Bridge – a process it now says may end with the structure being handed over to the Quebec government.
Federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel announced Thursday that the federal government, which owns the Champlain, will within days launch a tender process for studies on its replacement.
The studies will consider the bridge’s design and provide a financial analysis.
Among other things, the analysis will look at the tolls motorists will pay.
“No tolls, no bridge,” Lebel said, adding Ottawa could not afford the price tag – $3 billion to $5 billion – without tolls.
Speaking to a Longueuil business group, Lebel also unveiled a new website – tc.gc.ca/nbfsl – that is being used to inform the public about the new bridge, which is to be completed in 2021.
That’s also the year Ottawa may wash its hands of the bridge.
Lebel noted that Quebec is the only place where Ottawa owns bridges within a province. In other parts of the country, the federal government owns bridges that link provinces or reach the United States.
He said Ottawa is considering handing over Quebec bridges under its jurisdiction to the provincial government. That would include the new Champlain after it is completed, as well as the Jacques Cartier Bridge. Ottawa also owns half the Mercier Bridge.
Lebel said Quebec is working closely with Ottawa on plans for the new Champlain and suggested the province could take control of it and other federal bridges.
“It is too early to say where it will end, but it is clear that we must discuss this,” he said.
Speaking to reporters after his speech, Lebel said he has discussed the idea with Quebec Transport Minister Pierre Moreau, but talks are at a preliminary stage.
Quebec has been heavily criticized for neglecting road infrastructure under its jurisdiction.
Last year, The Gazette revealed that Ottawa has been more proactive in repairing its side of the Mercier.
The federal government replaced gusset plates on its side of the Mercier years ago, while Quebec delayed similar work on its portion.
Severe deterioration of Quebec’s gussets – plates used to hold together the bridge’s beams and girders – led to a partial emergency bridge closing last year.
The Champlain is Canada’s busiest bridge. It is used by 160,000 vehicles daily. An estimated $20 billion in international trade crosses the bridge annually, Ottawa says.
The Champlain is undergoing $370 million in renovations to keep it safe and operational until a new one is built. A 2010 study said it would be too costly and disruptive to traffic to repair it for the long term.
Here is Ottawa’s timeline:
2012-13: Preliminary design and financial analysis.
2012-14: Environmental assessment.
2014: Preliminary engineering and development of specifications.
2015-16: Call for tenders.
2016-21: Final plans and specifications. Construction.
2022-24: Demolition of the old Champlain Bridge............................Dig out your old tokens ,your gonna need 'em.......& it won't be .25cents.......... Cheers ! HF&RV - Les