February 20, 2018 3:12 pm

Warmer winters threaten the Oka-Hudson ice bridge

Warm weather is being blamed for closing a shortcut many people east of Montreal rely on in the winter. It's an ice bridge. It only got cold enough to open it 2 weeks ago, and it's already set to shut down tomorrow. Mike Armstrong reports.


Changing weather is making it difficult for a Montreal family to operate a privately run ice bridge that can trim the winter commute between Oka and Hudson by at least an hour.

The two-kilometre long ice bridge, which allows drivers to cross the Ottawa River, opened Jan. 31.

READ MORE: Communities along Lac St-Louis brace for high water levels, possible flooding

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The almost two-feet thick ice allows hundreds of cars cross the straight every day, but with temperatures above freezing in the forecast, the days of using the bridge could be numbered.

The Léger family have been maintaining the ice bridge for over 60 years. Louis Léger and his brother Jean-Claude, run the ice bridge in the winter and a ferry service in the summer.

Léger says it used to be an exceptional year when it was too warm for the ice bridge to open. Since the 1980s, however, winters have been getting noticeably warmer.

The warm weather has stopped the brothers from opening the bridge three of the last six years.  They need a minimum of 30 centimeters of ice to safely allow cars and trucks to traverse.

“In the 1980s we hardly ever had any rain in the wintertime. Now we have rain six times in the winter period,” Louis Léger said.

The ice bridge only opened at the end of January, which Léger says is later than usual.  Now only 20 days into February, rain and above freezing temperatures have caused the seasonal bridge to close down, Tuesday. The Léger family hopes to reopen later in the week if weather permits but the weather is always fickle.

READ MORE: Montreal communities brace for flooding

The Leger brothers no longer rely on the revenues from the ice bridge, Léger says. It’s just too dangerous financially.

How long can they keep it going? They don’t know, but it feels like things are heading in the wrong direction, Léger says.

The icy Hudson-Oka crossing costs $8 each way. When the bridge is fully functional it is open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., through the months of January, February and March if the weather permits.

For more information, the Traverse Oka-Hudson website will update the status of the seasonal passage way.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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