Announcement of Toll Bridge Construction (1955)

On August 17, 1955, the Honourable George Marler, federal Minister of Transport, announced that a toll bridge would be built over Nuns’ Island to the South Shore. The bridge would connect the city centre and the South Shore of the St. Lawrence River. At the time, three bridges linked the Island of Montreal and the South Shore, the Victoria, Jacques Cartier and Honoré Mercier, but they had become inadequate to carry the growing volume of traffic. In June 1955, the National Harbours Board was placed in charge of the project. Financing was provided through advances from the federal Department of Finance.

Choice of Bridge Location (1955)

Decisions on the location of the bridge and its approaches were made at meetings organized in the fall of 1955 by the National Harbours Board, which set up a Technical Committee with representatives of the provincial Department of Roads (today the Ministère des Transports du Québec), the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority, Hydro-Québec, the City of Montreal and some South Shore municipalities.

Expropriation of Lands (1956)

In 1956, the river was sounded. The location of the bridge was determined and preliminary designs were studied. Expropriation procedures also got under way. Originally, a four-lane bridge was planned, with the possibility of widening it later to six lanes, but after studies showing the enormous development potential of the South Shore and cost analyses were received, it was decided to go ahead with a six-lane bridge immediately.

Hiring of the First Professionals (1957)

In 1957, the National Harbours Board hired Dr. P.L. Pratley as the consulting engineer for the project. His son, H.H.L. Pratley, took over and completed the job after his father died in 1958. The Board also hired engineer Philippe Ewart as an expert in traffic flow, and engineers Lalonde and Valois as consultants for the Montreal approaches and to oversee the concrete work. National Harbours Board employees were put in charge of electrical installations and construction of the administration building and toll plaza.

Bridge’s Official Name (1958)

When the project began, the bridge was called the “Nuns’ Island Bridge” because it crossed over St. Paul Island, better known as Nuns’ Island. In 1958, it was officially named the “Champlain Bridge” in honour of Samuel de Champlain, who founded Quebec in 1608.

Opening of the Bridge (June 28, 1962)

The bridge was opened on June 28, 1962 without an official ceremony. At that time, the only approach to the bridge was via Wellington Street (section 2).

Opening of Section 1 (December 7, 1964)

Two years later, on December 7, 1964, section 1 was opened to traffic.

Construction of the Bonaventure Expressway (1965)

In the interval, discussions were carried out between the National Harbours Board and the City of Montreal regarding the construction of a third approach to the bridge that would bring traffic into the downtown area. As a result, it was agreed to build the Bonaventure Expressway under the following conditions:

  • All land required would be expropriated by the City of Montreal and would remain its property.
  • The National Harbours Board would make available, without cost to the City of Montreal, all land owned by the federal government.
  • All construction costs, including engineering fees, would be divided as follows:
    • From Notre Dame Street to the centre of the Lachine Canal: to be paid for by the City of Montreal;
    • From the centre of the Lachine Canal to the Champlain Bridge: to be paid for by the National Harbours Board.

This proposed approach took on a whole new dimension when plans for Expo 67 were unveiled, as it became apparent that the Bonaventure Expressway would be the main access to the Expo site. The expressway was designed with this in mind and the construction contract was awarded on August 6, 1965.

Inauguration of the Bonaventure Expressway (April 21, 1967)

On April 21, 1967, seven days before Expo 67 opened, the Bonaventure Expressway was officially opened by Guy Beaudet, Manager of the Port of Montreal, and C.A. Boileau, Director of Public Works at the City of Montreal, in the presence of representatives of the National Harbours Board, the City of Montreal, the consulting engineers, the contractors and a number of other people who had worked on the project.

Reserved Bus Lane (1982 – today)

Reserved bus lane operates during rush hour on weekdays.

Abolition of the Toll (May 4, 1990)

The toll, which was payable from the time the bridge was opened in June 1962, was abolished on May 4, 1990.

Redecking of the Bridge (1990-1992)

Replacement of the reinforced concrete deck with a steel (orthotropic) deck.

Major Maintenance Program (2009-2019)

Transport Canada’s announcement of a $212 M program (over 10 years) to implement a special bridge maintenance program.