New South Shore Mercier Bridge Structure
Mercier Bridge – A new structure will be built parallel to the existing Honoré-Mercier Bridge, with the goal of easing traffic congestion between the island of Montreal and the South Shore. In the Quebec government’s announcement on April 30th, Transport Minister Laurent Lessard said it would add two southbound lanes for cars as well as a bike path. The project is estimated to cost more than $100 million and the province will continue to share jurisdiction of the bridge with the federal government.
The section of the Mercier Bridge to be replaced was built in the 1930’s – and in need of a major overhaul. It no longer meets today’s road and traffic needs and the upkeep is very expensive. With the new structure, the province says it will also be able to lift the present ban on ‘overloaded trucks that use the bridge and will restore the full width of the road’. The northbound lane, built in the 1960’s is in much better shape.
In the news release Minister Lessard said, “An analysis of the various options demonstrated that the construction of a new Mercier Bridge structure to the South Shore represents the best investment from a financial, technical, human and environmental point of view.” Basically it will cost less to build the new structure then to continue repairing the existing one – which will be maintained until construction of the new portion is complete.
The planned structure will not only have two lanes for motorists, but will connect to a ‘multipurpose lane’ on the federal end of the bridge, finally allowing pedestrians and cyclists to cross safely.
The province still has to go through a series of environmental consultations to determine the potential effects construction could have on the river below. The section of the bridge over the St. Lawrence River is provincial and the part over the St. Lawrence Seaway is federal – with the south end of the bridge in the Kahnawake Mohawk Reserve.
Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton, although welcoming the announcement was still concerned at the lack of consultation with the Mohawk tribe in Kahnawake.
“I was a little, not necessarily upset, but the two parties, the federal government and provincial government are working together to make this a reality,” he said about the news. “This isn’t a reality unless we say yes, this will get done. They failed to acknowledge our jurisdictional input into all this and that’s important.”
Pierre Moreau, provincial MNA for Châteauguay and chair of the Treasury Board promised that some of the work would be done by steelworkers from nearby Kahnawake. He stated that the decision to rebuild ‘is not a decision that involves any other things than technical advice’. From the start he said the Mohawk people will be involved in the construction of the bridge as ‘they are part of our history’.
Moreau also said the section of the bridge currently used by commuters to the South Shore is the oldest and most expensive section of the bridge to maintain. The provincial government has been struggling with what to do with the aging structure – to either keep repairing the bridge or replace it entirely, but the decision to build the new parallel section became the most efficient and intelligent option.
Close to 80,000 cars now cross the bridge every day and it is only being kept safe by regular maintenance and repairs. Time is ticking away quickly at its lifespan and something has to be done about it soon. Is unclear exactly when construction will begin and the exact cost and timeline for project is still to be determined. The government said a business plan will be tabled soon which is required by a ‘provincial directive concerning major public infrastructure projects’.
Unfortunately, as all major projects in this city have proved in the past (and present with the new Champlain Bridge) it will come at a cost to Montrealers while being built – a hidden cost to people’s emotional and physical well-being, only managing to magically be revealed when it is too late to do anything about it. In this case it will most likely be the cause of more angst, especially to the residents who live near the bridge – but it must be built. Montrealers will do what they always do. They grin and bear it. And perhaps also do a little whining, crying and screaming… while keeping the faith.
In the meantime, the new Champlain Bridge is at risk of being delayed, according to a lawsuit filed in March by the consortium overseeing the project. Led by SNC-Lavalin, they are suing the federal government for nearly $124 million, alleging it wasn’t told about the weight restrictions on the existing bridge and it has slowed down progress – and it is possible the bridge will not be ready by December of 2018 as promised. Grin and bear it.