Champlain Bridge likened to terminal cancer patient
The New Democratic Party and a McGill University engineer attempted to ramp up the rhetoric regarding the urgency of replacing the Champlain Bridge in an effort to get the federal government to commit to building a new one.
The bridge opened in 1962 and accommodated 5,000 cars a day, a number that has skyrocketed to over 150,000 vehicles daily over the past 49 years.
"This bridge is going to die in 15 years, 20 years at most," said McGill engineering professor Saeed Mirza. "The present bridge is so deteriorated, it's like a cancer patient in the final stages of their life."
Mirza feels the government's current 10-year, $212 million plan to repair the bridge risks being a waste of money, agreeing with a report commissioned by the Jacques Cartier-Champlain Bridge Corporation and released July 13.
"Right now we're focusing our work. Our main goal is to keep it safe and continue our work," said corporation spokesman Jean-Vincent Lacroix.
The report released last month states that simple maintenance of the bridge would require investments of $18 million to $25 million per year for the next 10 years in an ever increasing curve, and that this investment would not result in an improvement of the actual structure.
"The maintenance work will become increasingly extensive and complex and require increasingly long lane closures and greater inconvenience for users," the report states.
The report also addresses the status of the ice structure immediately to the west of the Champlain Bridge, one that has long been targeted as a possible route for a light rail link between the South Shore and Montreal.
The report states converting the structure from its current use as a bike and pedestrian bridge into one that could carry train traffic would cost $170 million, but also notes that the structure is in good shape even though it was built in 1965.
The federal government has not yet committed to replacing the Champlain Bridge and says that all options are open, something the NDP wants to change.
"Our hopes are that the government realizes the importance of this economically," said Jamie Nicholls, the NDP MP for Vaudreuil-Solanges.
A new Champlain Bridge would cost at least $1.3 billion, but Mirza says continually repairing it could prove even more expensive. He adds that using the model that funded P.E.I.'s Confederation Bridge – tax money, tolls and private funding – could work here.
"That will be a solution for the governments which do not have the money right now," Mirza says.
That solution could ultimately apply to other infrastructure in cities across the country, says Brossard-La Prairie NDP MP Hoang Mai.
"Listen, we're losing a lot of money," he said. "We need to act now not only for the benefit of people not only in the Montreal region, but for all of Canada."