The Champlain Bridge (Pont Champlain) is one of Montreal's five main links to the suburban city of Longueuil, on the South Shore (Rive-Sud) of the St. Lawrence River. It links the borough of Brossard in Longueuil with the borough of Verdun on the Montreal side.
The bridge is 3.44 kilometers (2.1 miles) long from abutment to abutment, with the three main approaches on the Montreal side totalling an additional 11.1 kilometers (6.9 miles). The main span is a cantilever type made of steel, supporting a paved orthotropic steel deck. The bridge has a total of six lanes for automobiles, three in each direction with a centre median as well.
There is also a reserved lane set aside each rush hour for transit buses from the RTL (Réseau de transport de Longueuil - the Longueuil Transport Network). This lane runs in the opposite direction of traffic, towards Montreal in the South Shore approach's rightmost lane during the morning and the reverse in the evening.
The bridge is the busiest in all of Canada - 49 million vehicles use the structure each year. Also, it is estimated that the aforementioned reserve lane provides 30 thousand trips per day, providing a fast and effective means for suburbanites to travel to their jobs on Montreal island.
During the 1950s, major cities across North America were booming, and people started to migrate to newly developed suburbs - often previously small towns whose populations began to explode. This effect took shape in Montreal, with many people moving to the South Shore, close to the central business district of the city and yet with easily available land to build a house with a large lawn.
The federal government of Canada showed an uncharacteristic amount of foresight in this instance - the three bridges existing at the time (Jacques-Cartier Bridge, Victoria Bridge, and Mercier Bridge), were considered unable to cope with the expected increase in commuters. Therefore, it was announced in 1955 that a new toll bridge would be built to connect the city's downtown with the South Shore.
By 1956, the location had been chosen, and expropriation of land was underway. The original plan of a four-lane bridge expandable to six-lanes was scrapped in favour of a six-lane bridge due to more uncharacteristic foresight by the government. 1958 saw the name of the bridge change from the original Nuns' Island Bridge (named after the Verdun island it passed over on the Montreal side) to the current Champlain Bridge, named after Samuel de Champlain, French explorer and founder of Nouvelle-France.
The bridge was completed in 1962, with only one approach open at Wellington Street in Verdun. The second approach linking the bridge to Autoroute 20 and the Decarie Expressway was completed in 1964. All that was left was the third approach to link the downtown core to the bridge, which was to be an expressway all it's own - the Bonaventure Expressway. This apporach was more difficult to build due to it's length (4.5 kilometers), however the need for easy access to the future Expo 67 world exposition speeded negotiations. In the end the expressway was opened on April 21, 1967 - just six days before the opening of Expo 67!
The bridge became used more and more as people began moving to the suburbs of Brossard, Greenfield Park and Saint-Hubert. There were a daily average of just over 7,000 vehicles crossing the bridge in 1963 - this jumped to over 33 thousand in 1968 and to over 100 thousand by 1989, with a current daily average of 134 thousand. This usage of the bridge led to the abolishment of tolls in 1990, when the bridge's 52 million Canadian dollar (1962 dollars) cost was considered paid for. Old Jacques-Cartier/Champlain Bridge tokens are now collector's items.
The bridge's original concrete deck needed replacement by 1990, so it was decided to use orthotropic steel, which was more successful in European and American bridges than concrete. It's lighter, stronger, and has a much longer life span (60 years). Another advantage is that the deck replacement does not necessitate the closure of the bridge to traffic. Indeed, the work was done at night and all lanes had to be re-opened by 6 am else the contractors would be fined. The work was finished in 1993 at a cost of 40 million Canadian dollars.
http://www.pjcci.ca/English/JCCBI/default.htm (The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated)