The first step in the planning process for a replacement for the Ile aux Tourtes bridge is underway.

Last week was the deadline for companies to submit bids to "provide professional engineering support services for planning, construction and closure" of the environmental impact of the bridge along Highway 40 that joins the western tip of the island of Montreal to Vaudreuil-Dorion.

Earlier this year the Transportation Ministry said it would take up to two years to design the bridge, and documents say construction could take at least three years, and possibly only be complete in 2030.

In the meantime Quebec is spending $25 million this year and next to maintain the existing span, which is more than 50 years old.

Analysts with the Ministry say maintaining the bridge over the next 15 years would cost as much as building a new bridge.

The current plans call for a 45-metre wide bridge with three lanes in each direction, including a reserved lane for buses, and a bicycle/pedestrian path.

"It's very, very good news. We've been waiting for that news for at least two years, three years," said Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon.

"I remember having a meeting with all the mayors of Vaudreuil-Soulanges, including the one in Ile Perrot and MRC, and they asked us what was our main demand for this. We asked for two things. One, never close the Ile aux Tourtes because it's a link between Ontario and Quebec. Eighty-five percent of the commercial traffic goes through the 40 or the 20. And second if you build anything, just make sure you add something for the buses, a reserved lane for buses."

Built in 1965, the Ile aux Tourtes bridge is in bad shape because it was not designed to handle the volume of traffic, including heavy vehicles, that now routinely cross it.

Construction workers routinely repair steel tension cables that help hold the bridge together, and three years ago a crack on the eastern side of the bridge resulted in substantial repairs.