MONTREAL - Heavy rain has postponed work on the Champlain Bridge several times this summer and it has once again been put off this weekend.

But a stretch of the Bonaventure Expressway will be closed all weekend regardless of the weather.

Construction crews have been working on the underside of the Champlain Bridge all year, but they are now at the point where the only significant task left is to repave the bridge deck.

The plan was to shut 'er down Friday the 12th but that has now been put off to Friday August 19 instead.

To that end the Federal Bridge Corporation is planning to limit traffic on the bridge for 4 weekends this summer.

According to plan, next weekend only one lane will be open in each direction from 10 p.m. Friday August 19 until 2 a.m. Saturday. After that two lanes will be open coming into Montreal with one lane heading to the South Shore until Monday at 5 a.m.

Drivers looking for an alternative in the seemingly neverending Detour De L'ile should head west.

"Of course this weekend the better alternative is going to be the Jacques Cartier Bridge and Victoria Bridge," said Jean-Vincent Lacroix, spokesman for the Federal Bridge Corporation.

Future weekends will follow similar closure times, although only one lane will be open coming into the city while two lanes will be available for southbound traffic.

The lanes will be narrower than normal, so trucks wider than 3.3 m should avoid the Champlain Bridge.

The final decision on the bridge construction will be made at 3:30 p.m. this afternoon.

More construction in September

Drivers won't get much of a break in September, because that's when construction is scheduled to take place on Highway 15 between Atwater and the Nun's Island.

During those weekends only one lane in each direction will be open. 

Constant clamour for a new bridge

The Champlain Bridge has repeatedly come under fire for being in a very poor state.

During the election campaign many MP candidates demanded the federal government act soon to replace the aging structure, and many critics say the current $212 millon project, which the Federal Bridge Corporation says "will ensure the safety of the Champlain Bridge for the next 10 years," is not enough.

This week McGill engineering professor Saeed Mirza likened the bridge to a terminal cancer patient, saying "this bridge is going to die in 15 years, 20 years at most."

A 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 decade, going on to state "maintenance work will become increasingly extensive and complex and require increasingly long lane closures and greater inconvenience for users."