Montrealers will get a new Champlain Bridge in 2018, three years earlier than previously indicated, federal Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel announced today.

However, Lebel also said that the federal government would not go ahead with an architectural design competition.

Instead, the design of the bridge has been awarded to Danish architect Poul Ove Jensen, who will be working with engineers at Arup Canada, Inc. on the new Champlain.

At the news conference Sunday, Lebel thanked people living in Montreal and on the South Shore, which the Champlain Bridge connects, for their patience.

He said building the new Champlain Bridge was a major priority of the federal government, and promised that the new structure would be built to last at least 100 years. 

Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said he welcomed the news, and said that he hopes the new Champlain Bridge will still be a signature piece of architecture for the city.

Lebel said the existing Champlain Bridge would continue to be monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week in the meantime.

Superbeam a temporary fix

Traffic was slow-going on the Champlain Bridge on Sunday as workers put the finishing touches on the span’s brand new "superbeam."

The 75-tonne steel reinforcement beam was attached to Canada’s busiest bridge after lengthy delays on Saturday.

Other work such as post-tensioning, structure inspection and installation of concrete barriers was completed on Sunday.

Yesterday, the bridge was supposed to be closed from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. ET, but it reopened at around 6 p.m. ET.

The "superbeam" is meant to help support a cracked girder in a section of the span’s underside.

The crack was discovered in mid-November and since then, traffic on the Champlain Bridge has been reduced.

Drivers commuting to and from the South Shore will have to use just one lane in either direction until midnight tonight. At that point, three northbound lanes and two southbound lanes are supposed to open.

By evening rush hour, the bus lane toward the South Shore should be back up and running, the bridge corporation said.

Superbeam

The Champlain Bridge's brand-new superbeam got installed Nov. 30. (Radio-Canada)