Ottawa promises Champlain Bridge replacement by 2018
The federal government is repeating its pledge to build a replacement for the Champlain Bridge by 2018.
Federal transport minister Denis Lebel was in Montreal Wednesday to repeat what he said at the beginning of December.
Despite repeated requests from the provincial government and local mayors, Lebel said the government would have no choice but to impose a toll, although he cautioned the price would not be determined for a long time.
"We're not ready to give a price or an exact amount for the toll. We have heard $7. That's wrong," said Lebel. "It's too early to give you the exact price of the toll."
Lebel said the government has examined the pricing for other tolls in the Montreal area and said the price for the Champlain replacement would be comparable.
The Highway 30 bypass on the South Shore will charge car drivers $2 per trip as of Feb. 1, while the Autoroute 25 bridge has a variable time price scheme, charging drivers $2.48 at rush hour and $1.86 outside peak hours.
The bridge will have six lanes and have space for a light rail line, but construction and payment of the railway will be the responsibility of the provincial government.
Danish architect Poul Ove Jensen has been commissioned to design the bridge.
The Quebec government is not satisfied with the toll, saying that Quebecers will end up being "surprised" whenever the amount is actually declared.
In a written statement provincial ministers Sylvain Gaudreault and Alexandre Cloutier said they were also disappointed that Ottawa was not giving precedence to two-level designs.
Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Cloutier expressed serious concerns.
“Of course if you charge on the Champlain Bridge, you'll create a huge mess everywhere else on the island… You're going to pay there but not anywhere else? It just doesn't make any sense,” said Cloutier.
Quebec's ministers prefer a two-level design for the bridge, saying the lower level would be dedicated to trains and to express bus lanes that would be sheltered from the elements.
The current Champlain Bridge sometimes has to close its reserved bus lane because of weather conditions that prevent traffic cones from staying in place.
The new bridge will cost between $3 and $5 billion to build. Private companies may apply for the contracts this spring and a shortlist will be announced in the summer.