MONTREAL -- The deconstruction of the old Champlain Bridge has been underway for months, but the bridge authority wants most of it to stick around.

This week it launched a nationwide competition, calling on individuals and organizations will come up with creative ways to reuse some of the old materials from the bridge. Specifically, it’s offering up steel components -- and giving them away for a steal.

“About 400 steel components of the bridge will be available for the public to use in different creative, artistic and architectural projects,” said JCCBI spokesperson Nathalie Lessard.

The parts aren’t free, but they’re pretty close.

There’s a catalogue available, with some pieces going for as little as $10, determined by the recycling company. The largest piece, weighing $6,000 KG, has a $485 price tag.

For the first phase of the Material Reuse Competition, the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated (JCCBI) has launched a call for participation which will remain on its website until May 31. 

“It's a call for interest at this point, it's not a commitment, they just go on our website and give us their information, and short description of the project that they're thinking of doing, using pieces of components from the Champlain Bridge,” said Lessard.

After the first phase, serious contenders will have to come up with a more specific outline of their project.

The JCCBI is looking for “architectural, artistic, commemorative or creative projects, which can be private or public in nature and relate to construction, the rehabilitation of public infrastructure, urban planning, or ecology,” according to a news release.

"By finding creative ways to reuse, recycle and upgrade materials from the original Champlain Bridge, the JCCBI will minimize the environmental footprint of this major project,” said Catherine McKenna, the federal minister of infrastructure. “I can't wait to see the ideas brought forward by Canadians to reduce waste and give this bridge a second life while paying tribute to its history,"

The deconstruction of the bridge is a $400-million project, with a goal of recycling or reusing 90 per cent of the 280,000 tonnes of material.

Most of the work is happening over the St. Lawrence River, with the bridge deck and steel components being taken apart section by section and lowered onto a barge.

Cranes will take apart the support piers before the underwater structure is chipped up and removed.

The steel portion of the bridge will be dismantled at the end of the year and the competition winners will likely receive the steel they need by summer 2022.

While some Montrealers may associate the old bridge with traffic and construction headaches, Lessard said it also did a lot of good for the region, which is why they’re hoping for projects that will help the bridge to leave a mark long after it’s gone.

“When the bridge opened in the early 60s, basically, there was hardly anyone living in Brossard and Nun’s Island,” she said. “Although it had a short life of about 60 years, it contributed enormously to the development of the Montreal region.”