Hole in Montreal's Champlain Bridge deemed 'not dangerous'

An engineer who was, until recently, responsible for the inspection of the city's Champlain Bridge told Radio-Canada that despite the millions spent to repair the bridge, it's becoming harder and harder to deem safe.
A 1.82-metre long hole develops on city’s busy Champlain Bridge 1:33

The busiest bridge in Canada is in Montreal and it has a hole clear through it.

An engineer who was, until recently, responsible for the inspection of the city’s Champlain Bridge told Radio-Canada that despite the millions spent to repair the structure, it’s becoming harder and harder to deem safe.

The engineer, who was responsible for the inspection of the bridge for 10 years, was recently fired and requested anonymity.

In pictures and emails sent to Radio-Canada, he detailed a 1.82-metre long hole that runs alongside an expansion joint.

During the weekend of May 4, the Montreal-bound side of the bridge was closed for the repair of four expansion joints — the pieces that connect the cement to the bridge structure.

The engineer who took images that show the hole extends through a segment of the bridge, revealing the water of the St. Lawrence below.

He said the hole wouldn't affect the structural integrity of the bridge and wouldn’t on its own cause a bridge collapse, but he believes it could cause accidents.

Another engineer contacted by Radio-Canada agreed.

"There’s no danger for cars, there’s no worry at the structural level," said Jean-Vincent Lacroix, the director of communications for Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc., the company responsible for the bridge’s upkeep.

"The only thing we have to do quickly is place a plaque over it as soon as possible," he said.

Within a couple of hours, a steel plate was placed over the hole. The expansion joint should be repaired in the coming weeks.

Today, federal transport minister Denis Lebel commented on the hole in bridge, saying it’s not unusual for gaps to develop along expansion joints.

"We have replaced other pieces of the bridge," he said. "I trust the organization to keep this bridge safe."

New bridge planned

The new Champlain Bridge will be the subject of an international design competition.

The new bridge is expected to be a point of pride for Montrealers.

"And Montreal needs some pride these days," said Michel Leblanc, the president and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.

The Quebec Order of Architects wants the international design competition in order to eventually have the best possible Champlain Bridge Montreal could have.

"A bridge that would be esthetically pleasing, that would be functional and durable. It’s not just a call for ideas, to have a nice looking bridge," said André Bourassa, president of the architects' group.

However, some are concerned the federal government won’t open the competition soon enough to ensure the new bridge is built before the old one has to come down.

The 51-year-old Champlain Bridge has been the subject of much controversy in recent years, and is widely viewed as dangerous by local residents.

"We need to have this bridge replaced quickly," said Leblanc from the Board of Trade.