June 25, 2019 11:51 am
Updated: June 25, 2019 2:32 pm

Rush-hour drivers get their first try at Montreal’s new Samuel de Champlain Bridge

WATCH ABOVE: It was mostly smooth sailing for the first rush-hour commuters heading into Montreal from the South Shore on the new Samuel de Champlain Bridge. Global's Billy Shields reports.

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It was mostly smooth sailing for the first rush-hour commuters heading into Montreal from the South Shore on the new Samuel de Champlain Bridge.

“The bridge looks great, and it seemed to speed up traffic a bit this morning,” said Victoria Lewin, who drove across the span on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Montreal’s new Samuel de Champlain Bridge opens northbound

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There were still a few hiccups, with drivers unsure of the configuration to get across the Saint Lawrence River.

“I found it slightly confusing to get on, but that’s probably temporary — and it’s impressive,” traffic analyst Rick Leckner told Global News, adding that the old bridge should have been better maintained.

“It’s great. It’s beautiful; it is the signature on the St. Lawrence [River] but it should not have had to have been built.”

The new Samuel de Champlain Bridge opened to northbound traffic at 5 a.m. on Monday; the southbound side is set to open to traffic on July 1.

WATCH: Montreal’s new Champlain Bridge opens northbound

“We know the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, the Golden Gate in California; I think this is going to be a signature landmark of Montreal,” said Federal Infrastructure Minister François-Philippe Champagne as the first cars drove over the new structure on Monday.

The new bridge is 3.4 kilometres long and has three lanes in each direction for vehicle traffic as well as a central deck for public transit for the future Réseau express métropolitain (REM) train.

READ MORE: New Samuel de Champlain Bridge to open northbound lane June 24, southbound lane July 1

“Hopefully, with dedicated bus lanes that will be an incentive for people to use public transit,” Leckner said.

There is also a lane dedicated to cyclists and pedestrians. The bridge’s estimated cost is $4.5 billion, and it was partially funded by the Canadian government.

WATCH: Montreal’s new bridge officially named Samuel de Champlain

Officials believe the bridge, which has an estimated life expectancy of 125 years, will accommodate about 50 million passages each year.

Champlain Bridge permanently closed

The official opening for the new Champlain Bridge will take place on Friday, June 28.

READ MORE: New structure replacing old Champlain Bridge officially named Samuel De Champlain

On the same day, as of 10 p.m., the old Champlain Bridge closed to traffic so that Signature sur le Saint-Laurent (SSL) — the company chosen to carry out the design, construction, financing, operations, maintenance and rehabilitation of the bridge — could finalize its plans before the new span is completely opened.

WATCH: New Champlain Bridge one step closer to opening

However, because the Jacques Cartier Bridge will be closed on Saturday, June 29 from 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. for the first fireworks show of the summer, a single lane towards the South Shore will be open between 7 p.m. and 1 a.m.

After this, the structure will be permanently closed and dismantled over the next three to four years.

READ MORE: Slices of Montreal immortalized as part of new Champlain Bridge

Over the last few years, maintenance required to keep the old span in service has cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Throughout the weekend, the Victoria Bridge will also be open to the South Shore only.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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