The consortium building the replacement for the Champlain Bridge says it is doing everything it can to complete work by the end of this year, but just in case, plans are being made to maintain the old bridge until the summer of 2019.

Six months ago the Signature on the St. Lawrence group hired 300 more workers, and added more shifts, in order to speed up construction.

They say the new span is currently 65 per cent complete and the goal to have it ready by the end of the year is realistic and attainable.

“We're very confident that we're going to deliver on time,” said Daniel Genest, coordination director of the SSL.

There will be extra costs related to the project, but no one was able to give details on them. The bridge had an original price tag of $4.2 billion to be paid by the federal government.

The deadline for completion of the bridge is December 2018, and the company will pay substantial penalties if the bridge is not ready: $100,000 per day for the first week, and $400,000 per day after that.

“The workers are aligned to deliver with us on time and we have great workers on site,” said Genest.

The exact date in December has yet to be determined.

Construction on the new Champlain has been marked by many problems.

Because of weight restrictions on older bridges in Montreal, many large pieces had to be shipped by barge to Nuns' Island, instead of being driven via truck.

Many of the source parts coming have arrived with defects that had to be corrected before they could be used.

The Signature on the St. Lawrence group will be responsible for maintaining the Champlain Bridge until 2048, and the bridge is being designed and built with plans for it to last 125 years.

The problems prompted the federal government to implement a backup plan to make sure the older Champlain Bridge will still be usable until the summer of 2019.

“We've looked at our strategy, what would we do so we're going to continue with the inspections, continue with the monitoring of the bridge and there are a number of pier caps that we will come in and support with very strong steel supports under the bridge should the new bridge not arrive in time,” explained Glen Carlin, general manager of the Jacques-Cariter and Champlian Bridges Inc.

It has set aside $10 million for the inspections and reinforcements that will be necessary to keep the old bridge safe for vehicles.


With files from The Canadian Press