It cost roughly $35 million to build the Champlain Bridge, $52 million if the approaches and Bonaventure Expressway are included.
Construction Call for Tenders (1957)
In 1957, once the plans were completed, the National Harbours Board put out a call for tenders for a project, with plans supplied to the tenderers. However, the project authorized the submission of different alternatives subject to well-defined conditions. In all, 14 firms submitted 28 proposals.
Section 6 Piers (July 25, 1957)
The first contract was awarded on July 25, 1957 to Atlas Construction Company Limited to build the four piers supporting the steel structure in section 6. The contract was awarded earlier than originally planned so that the two piers within the Seaway, which was under construction at the time, could be built before the channel was flooded.
Piers and Abutments on the Montreal Side, Temporary Dams (1958)
In 1958, three contracts were awarded for construction of temporary dams, fill work on Nuns’ Island and construction of the piers and abutments on the Montreal side.
Unlike the approach taken for most bridge piers, none of the pneumatic caissons for the Champlain Bridge were built on land. Instead, they were assembled in the St. Lawrence itself. They rest on a bed of shale at an average depth of 39 feet 4 inches (12 m) below the high water mark and are between 11 feet (3.35 m) and 85 feet 3 inches (26 m) in height. The circular shape of the piers and their size were dictated by resistance to ice pressure, which is 30 tons per linear metre of pier width measured perpendicular to a direction forming a 30° angle with the longitudinal axis of the section.
Piers and Structure, Sections 5 and 7 (June 25, 1959)
The largest contract ($8.319 million) was awarded for the construction of the piers and the 8,096-foot (2,468-m) structure in sections 5 and 7 to three companies that formed a partnership known as MKD: McNamara (Quebec) Limited, The Key Construction Inc. and Deschamps & Bélanger Limitée.
The contract included 46 spans, each with seven prestressed concrete girders roughly 176 feet (53.6 m) long and supported by T-shaped piers resting on a bed of shale. The time required to build the piers varied considerably. The easiest ones could be constructed in 15 days, while the most difficult ones required 49 days, with an average of 28 days of work per pier. They were built at an average rate of 6.5 per month. At the time, using prestressed concrete to build bridge beams was a recent development and this contract was the most significant application of prestressed concrete in the country, both in terms of scope and quantity of work.
Work under the contract began in July 1959 and was completed in November 1961, one day before the scheduled completion date, for a total of 22.5 months of activity, after subtracting the winter months of 1960 and 1961, when all work at the site was suspended.
Bridge Girders – a Canadian First
For the first time on a major structure in Canada, prestressed concrete girders with Freyssinet tension cables, which give the structure great additional strength, were used.
A yard was set up on Nuns’ Island to build 476 prestressed concrete girders, 322 of which were used in sections 5 and 7. The site included a handling area housing eight bases for pouring concrete, and an area to build reinforcements. It took 10 hours of work per day to build three girders. A tower crane moved between the different activity areas on the site. Because of the size of the job, a mechanical facility was set up for building the prestressed cables. The girders were then transported 1.5 miles (2.5 km) by two travelling cranes on rails. A 370-foot 7-inch (113-m) long gantry crane weighing more than 250 tons was used to install the girders. At the peak of the work, the contractor was installing two complete girders a week.
Section 3 Structures (July 1959)
In July 1959, a contract for the structures in section 3, that is, 12 spans of 7 girders, each 128 feet (39 m) long, was awarded for $1.044 million. These girders, like all the others, were prefabricated on Nuns’ Island.
Superstructure and Concrete Roadway, Section 6 (October 1959)
The contract for the steel superstructure and concrete roadway in section 6 was awarded to the Dominion Bridge Company Limited on October 1, 1959 for $5.907 million.
The contract covered the three main cantilever arms straddling the Seaway, which were 1,477 feet 9 inches (450.5 m) in length, and the four lateral trusses, each with a span of 256 feet 9 inches (78.2 m), for a total length of 2,504 feet 9 inches (763,6 m). Construction of the 1,477-foot 9-inch (450.5-m) cantilever arm and the suspended span required 15 months of non-stop work between June 1960 and September 1961; the work continued even during the winter months because steel, unlike other materials such as prestressed concrete, is unaffected by weather conditions. In total, 11,000 tons of steel were needed to build the girders, which were produced at the Dominion Bridge Company’s Lachine works.
Proportionally speaking, this section is only a small part of the total project, but the complexity of the problems that arose during its design and construction make it the most important. The drawings required an entirely clear span 706 feet 9 inches (215.5 m) long between the main piers. In addition, the steel deck had to be 120 feet (36.6 m) above the water. Since the St. Lawrence Seaway was already open for shipping, falsework and floating equipment were not permitted in the channel, so the centre spans were erected cantilever style from the two main piers on each side. The work progressed into space from each side until the two sections finally met and were joined together.
Last Girder (September 21, 1961)
The last girder was solemnly put in place on Thursday, September 21, 1961. Using a giant crane and enormous hydraulic levers, the 15-ton steel girder was first raised to the top of the steel structure and then bolted in place. All the assembly work, which required great precision, was synchronized by telephone from a central control post. Two workers then raised the Union Jack to the top of the steel structure. The following day, the Honourable Léon Balcer, federal Minister of Ports, visited the bridge.
Lighting, Buildings, Toll Booths (1961 and 1962)
Contracts for lighting, buildings, toll booths and signalling systems were awarded in 1961 and 1962.
Construction of the Second Access Route (1963)
In July 1963, contracts for the second access route, that is, the Atwater Tunnel and De La Vérendrye Boulevard approaches, were awarded to Charles Duranceau Limitée and Quebec Engineering Limited.
Bonaventure Expressway (1965 and 1966)
The contract to build the first part of the Bonaventure Expressway was awarded on August 6, 1965; the road was particularly useful while the Expo 67 site was being built. Contracts for the second and third parts of the expressway were awarded in February and April 1966 respectively and the work was completed shortly before Expo 67.