The City of Montreal has begun work to alleviate pressure above the Ville-Marie Expressway, directly in front of the Palais des congres, by clearing it of extra weight, a move one engineer calls “scary.”

CTV Montreal has learned that in the last week trees, soil, concrete and granite have been removed from Place Jean-Riopelle, a small city park that sits across Bleury St. from the Palais des Congres.

It is also on top of the Ville-Marie Expressway.

The move comes after Quebec’s Transport Department received a report this July about the structure.

“At the request of the Ministère des Transports du Québec, the Ville Marie borough is dismantling two giant planters as well as the stairs in between them,” said Anik de Repentigny, a representative for the Ville-Marie Borough. 

The plan is to remove 250 tonnes – 10 per cent of the weight on top of the road that hides the overpass.

“We needed to take some action to alleviate some weight from the structure to prevent and preserve this structure that was built in 1972,” said MTQ spokesperson Caroline Larose.

Trucks with heavy loads have also been restricted from driving on Bleury St.

“We made the analysis, we trust the results that we've got and we're taking some actions,” said Larose. “It's not like we don't know the state of this overpass.”

Repair work is scheduled for 2013, after a winter that is bound to bring heavy ice and snow.

Concordia engineering professor Adel Hanna said waiting months to repair the overpass is a troubling move.

“When I hear they have to remove 10 per cent, it's really very scary because we design the bridge to carry twice as much of the load, which means 100 per cent, so 10 per cent is too little,” he said, adding that a report from this summer could already be outdated, especially after last week's earthquake.

“We can't afford to wait until a bridge collapses under its own weight as the Laval bridge, which collapsed just by itself, without any loads or any external effects,” he said.

Still, the MTQ insists the area is safe, claiming that if it were not, they would have closed the Ville-Marie and the road on top.

“All the merchants, hotels and business owners around Place Jean-Riopelle have been informed of the work being done by the city,” said de Repentigny.

The city, however, appears to have missed merchant Anthony Musto, who runs the Java U coffee shop that faces Place Jean-Riopelle.

Musto said he wants the MTQ to fix the overpass as soon as possible.

“If it's 24 hours, if it's two shifts, three shifts, let's take care of it,” he said.

In the meantime, both the MTQ and the city are focusing on continuing the delicate work of removing the sidewalks and stairs along the park.

“It’s not really a reasonable solution,” said Hanna. “It's not a final solution for the problem. Instead of postponing the repair to next year, they should go immediately and start the repair.”

The MTQ and the Ville-Marie Borough have a special meeting on Thursday to discuss how to proceed with the work as safely as possible.