Walking on history: tours of old Champlain Bridge a chance to say goodbye

The old Champlain Bridge will soon be no more but Montrealers got a last chance to take a tour on Saturday.

Built in 1962, the bridge was just one of several massive projects during a golden period of Montreal history.

“Just a few years after this bridge opened Expo arrived, a mega-project in itself, building new islands, all the pavilions and so on,” said Heritage Montreal Policy Director Dinu Bumbaru. “The metro was happening at the same time.”

However, the Champlain was flawed from the get-go and road salt spread during winters shrunk its life span. With the opening this year of the bridge’s replacement, the old structure is set to be demolished beginning in summer 2020. The new bridge’s lifespan is estimated at up to 125 years.

With time running out before its torn down Heritage Montreal and the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Inc. are hosting tours to the now-closed bridge.

“To touch it, to walk on it because you remember this was a place where you couldn’t stop so it was a constant flow of vehicles,” said Bumbaru. “Now is the time to look at it.”

“It’s 3.4 kilometres long so almost 300,000 tonnes of material,” said JCCBI spokesperson Nathalie Lessard, who estimated the demolition will take three years.

Once the bridge is gone there are plans to develop the shoreline area it occupied.

“What we want to do is redevelop the shoreline on both Ile-des-Soeurs and Brossard,” said Lessard.