The new Champlain Bridge will be open by December, consortium says

The new Champlain Bridge, which connects Nuns' Island and Brossard, is 65 per cent complete. The consortium building the span says it's hiring more workers to get the job done.

65% of project is complete, with the rest slated to be finished by the end of the year

There are still major steps to complete before the project is finished, according to site manager Daniel Genest. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

The consortium hired by the federal government to build the new Champlain Bridge is confident the job will be done by the December 2018 deadline.

That's good news — because if it isn't, the consortium could face fines of up to $400,000 for every day it's late.

For the first week after the deadline, the federal government will charge Signature on the St. Lawrence $100,000 per day. After that, it's $400,000.

About 65 per cent of the project, which will connect Nuns' Island to Montreal's South Shore, is complete, according to Daniel Genest, the site manager.

He said he guarantees that corners aren't being cut, and that neither the bridge's quality nor the safety of the workers will be compromised in order to meet the deadline.

Signature on the St. Lawrence hired 200 extra workers last year in an effort to meet the deadline. 

The $4-billion project was behind schedule at the time, due in part to the public engineers' strike last spring, which lasted several weeks.

Also, a sudden change in provincial standards, which prevented transport trucks carrying heavy loads from taking the old Champlain Bridge, further delayed the work, Genest said.
The work site at the foot of the Champlain Bridge, where 850 workers are employed and more will soon be hired. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

The company is once again hiring more workers to get the job done — right now, there are 850 working on the project, but that number will increase, meaning the budget will, too. Genest didn't say by how much, however.

"We're not working quicker, we're investing more workers on site," said Genest. "Obviously these additional measures have a cost associated with them."

If construction goes on past the deadline, there is a backup plan. The project's budget includes $10 million meant to ensure the current Champlain Bridge can be used for six months if need be, according toGlen Carlin, the current director of the bridge.

A ways to go

There are still major steps to completed before the project can be completed.

First, pier caps must be installed, which are two-thirds complete and should all be installed by spring, Genest said. 

Pier caps are w-shaped lateral steel girders that the three traffic corridors will rest upon.

First, pier caps must be installed, which are two-thirds complete and should all be installed by spring, site manager Daniel Genest said. (Navneet Pall/CBC)

On top of that, there will be a corridor dedicated to public transit — buses and the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) commuter train line — in the middle of the bridge. 

Half of it will be built by Signature on the St. Lawrence, and the other half by provincial infrastructure subsidiary CDPQ Infra.

But it won't be finished in time for opening day. So in the meantime, there will be a fourth lane in either direction for buses. Once the public transit corridor opens, the bridge will return to three lanes.

The new bridge's expected lifespan is 125 years.

With files from Navneet Pall