Coderre says 'no' to toll on new Champlain Bridge

Federal infrastructure minister Denis Lebel says a new Champlain Bridge will be open by 2018, and will be built in a public-private partnership.

Ottawa says charging tolls is the best way to ensure the new span will be maintained properly

Ottawa says a new span to replace the Champlain Bridge by 2018, will have tolls that drivers must pay when they cross it. (CBC)

Federal infrastructure minister Denis Lebel says a new Champlain Bridge will be open by 2018, and will be built in a public-private partnership.

“I have made it a priority to deliver a new bridge by 2018,” Lebel said during a visit in Montreal Wednesday, as he unveiled the bridge’s plans.

The government says construction is slated to begin next year, and it will start looking for a construction consortium as early as this spring.

The new bridge

The new Champlain Bridge will have six traffic lanes, room for pedestrians and cyclists, and a light rail.

The new bridge, which is expected to have a lifespan of about 100 years — double that of the current bridge — is slated to cost between $3 billion and $5 billion.

Ottawa says it will cover part of the cost — and drivers will also have to pitch in by paying a toll when they cross the span linking the South Shore to the island of Montreal.

“We're not ready to give a price, an exact price, for the toll. We have heard $7 — that's wrong,” Lebel said, adding the toll fee would likely be similar to tolls on Highways 25 and 30, which is about $2 for every vehicle that has a transponder.

Quebec says Ottawa should foot the entire bill

Both provincial and municipal politicians say they don’t agree with having commuters pay a toll on the new Champlain Bridge.

The Champlain Bridge is the busiest span in Canada, and Quebec says Ottawa should pay the entire cost.

“They're starting to move in the right direction but they have to move to the end — which means, paying for it,” said Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Alexandre Cloutier, adding that having a toll on one bridge will cause congestion on other spans.

“It's quite obvious: if you try it on the Champlain bridge, you're going to create a mess elsewhere on the island.”

Montreal mayor Denis Coderre agrees, saying a bridge toll will hurt Montreal’s economy and hold Montrealers and Quebecers hostage.

“Every time you’re passing from one place to another, you have to pay for it? It has an economic impact. It has a major impact downtown, because if those people will say ‘Instead of paying, I’m going to stay on the South Shore.’ That’s a problem,” Coderre said.

“It's in our interest to make sure that we make them see the light about what's the consequences of having a toll booth.”

Demolition price tag unknown

While Ottawa says constructing a new bridge will cost up to $5 billion, federal officials say they still don’t know how much it will cost to demolish the current structure.

Lebel admits he does not yet know how the Champlain Bridge will be demolished, and how much that could cost taxpayers.

He says the demolition will only take place once the new span opens in 2018.


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