The consortium responsible for the construction of the new Champlain Bridge say it has increased the number of workers and even added a second shift to make sure the project is completed by its deadline of December 2018.

Construction has faced several delays but is now 60 per cent complete.

This year the project was slightly delayed by strikes in May, followed by a strike by engineers overseeing construction.

The consortium also had problems getting heavy equipment and material to the site because of weight restrictions on existing bridges to Montreal.

Those problems have been resolved, but to ensure work will finish on time crews are working 20 hours a day, with two shifts, in a race against time to meet the deadline.

“Acceleration measures is essentially a larger work force on site, an increase of roughly 25 per cent, more work shifts and also working weekends,” said coordination manager Daniel Genest.

Installation of underwater foundations is done; the piers that are supported by them are almost complete; and the main pylon is progressing well, said project manager Frederic Guitard.

“That's really the backbone of the bridge because all the 13 stay cables will be directly anchored onto an upper pylon,” he said.

The consortium is also hoping for a mild winter to make sure work continues at a speedy pace.

“Ideally we'd have no winter next year, it would be warm for the next 14 months, no rain and no wind. These would be the optimum conditions,” said Genest.

However should there be more unforeseen problems, the Crown company that oversees bridges in Montreal has plans to extend the life of the existing Champlain if necessary, though the existing bridge would need reinforcements to ensure it is safe.

“If we have any lead time regarding delays it gives us the opportunity to fabricate elements required to support the structure,” said Glen Carlin, CEO of the Jacques-Cartier and Champlain Bridges Corporation.

The contingency plan is not cheap, but at $250 million, the old Champlain Bridge can be kept functional until 2020.