November 23, 2013 1:47 pm
Updated: November 23, 2013 1:52 pm

Mulcair calls out Harper, says handling of Champlain Bridge ‘inexcusable’

MONTREAL – The federal government is coming under attack for its handling of one of Canada’s busiest bridges.

NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair says Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to personally take charge of plans to build a replacement for Montreal’s crumbling Champlain Bridge.

Mulcair says the Conservative government’s handling of the file has been “inexcusable” and says construction of a new bridge should have been in place a long time ago.

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The Champlain Bridge is one of several bridges falling under federal jurisdiction.

The deterioration of a supporting beam this week has led to major repair work and lane closures.

The lane was shut down because a crack in one of the bridge’s concrete beams is getting worse – and officials want to limit the stress on that beam.

“We will take whatever measures are required,” said Glen Carlin, Director General of Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated.

“If we have any doubt about the security or the safety of the bridge, if we have to close three lanes we will close three lanes. If we have to close the bridge we will close the bridge.”

The 2 millimeter fissure was first discovered on November 12th during a routine inspection.

“Right now there’s definitely no sign of other cracks,” said Project Manager Catherine Tremblay.

“There are none of significance. Obviously there are little cracks everywhere but not to create a concern.”

WATCH: Elysia Bryan-Baynes reports on officials reacting to Champlain Bridge woes.

The bridge was built in 1962 and plans are underway to replace it with a new structure in 2021.

Federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel said Friday that the government is looking at speeding up construction of the new bridge on the St. Lawrence River.

The cost is pegged at between $3 billion and $5 billion.

More than 50 million vehicles use the Champlain Bridge every year. It links Montreal with its south shore suburbs.

With files from Global News’ Rachel Lau and The Canadian Press

© The Canadian Press/Shaw Media, 2013

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