Officials with the Champlain Bridge authority say they plan to install a new support beam on top of the one that cracked and forced the closure of another lane today.

At a news conference Friday, transport officials said they now plan to install the new beam by mid-December, which will require a two-day period when traffic is limited down to two lanes—one in each direction.

'We did not expect the beam to show stress so early,' - Glen P. Carlin, general manager of the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated

Officials say they will aim to do the installation on a weekend, in order to reduce its impact on drivers.

"We did not expect the beam to show stress so early," said Glen P. Carlin, general manager of the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated.

"This event is definitely showing that these pre-stress beams have been attacked by corrosion, the use of road-salt for the last 50 years. The road salt has found its way inside these beams," he said.

This "super-beam," weighing 75 tonnes, was manufactured in 2009 as a preventive measure.

The huge piece of steel will be sent to Nuns' Island, where it will be assembled before being hoisted up using a barge or lowered from a crane.

Once installed, this "super-beam" will reinforce the cracked beam.

Lane closures cause rush hour delays

Officials said they were forced to close another lane of the Champlain Bridge today, after the 2-millimetre crack they recently discovered in one of the span’s girders continues to deteriorate.

'Its condition has continued to decline' - Statement from Jacques Carter and Champlain Bridges Corporation

“Since closing a lane on the Champlain Bridge, we’ve been closely monitoring the girder that requires reinforcement, and in recent days have noted that its condition has continued to decline,” said a statement issued late Thursday night by the Jacques Carter and Champlain Bridges Corporation.

“As a preventive measure, we are obliged to close a second southbound lane to carry out a special inspection to thoroughly analyze the situation.”

This morning, two of the three lanes heading towards the South Shore were closed.

Beginning in the afternoon two lanes will be open in both directions.

Bridge officials said the crack discovered last week has lengthened, and they have discovered three cracks in total.

The corporation urges motorists heading off-island to use either the Mercier or Jacques Cartier bridges, or the Lafontaine tunnel.

7 new measures

Officials already had a plan with 12 traffic-calming measures in place since last week, when the initial crack was discovered.

Now, seven new measures have been added to further help ease congestion on the island of Montreal and the South Shore.

  • Keep two lanes open in each direction on the Champlain bridge
  • Extend the reserved southbound bus lane between Marc-Cantin Street and the old weigh station
  • Make South Shore bus passes valid on the AMT Mont-Saint-Hilaire and Candiac commuter train lines
  • Postpone the existing roadwork on the Mercier Bridge and on Saint-Antoine Street, between Peel and Mansfield
  • Add extra tow trucks at the two extremities of the Champlain Bridge
  • Ensure a firetruck is always present on Nuns' Island
  • Assign extra patrollers on the approach to the Champlain Bridge — after the reserved bus lane — to help buses access the span.

Political leaders of Montreal and South Shore cities — along with Quebec Transport Minister Sylvain Gaudreault — say they are all joining forces to put pressure on the federal government to deliver a new Champlain Bridge sooner than planned.

The government had committed to building a new span for 2021, but local mayors say that won't suffice anymore.

"We are talking as one voice to put the right [amount of] pressure so that the federal government will understand that," said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, adding that he'd like to see preliminary plans for a new bridge by the end of the year.