Quebec Transport Minister François Bonnardel took to Twitter Thursday afternoon to announce the immediate closure of the Île-aux-Tourtes bridge.
Bonnardel said engineers made the decision to close the 56-year-old span for the safety of its users.
A spokesperson for the ministry said in a news release that the closure is preventive and will allow emergency work to be carried out to “strengthen several elements of the structure.”
Martin Girard said officials observed damage to reinforcement rods while working on the span.
The worry, he said, is that the damage to the rods may have weakened the structure.
Under the circumstances, “complete closure is considered the only responsible option to ensure the safety of road users,” he said.
The bridge on Highway 40 is a vital link between the on-island Montreal suburb of Senneville and Vaudreuil-Dorion in the Montérégie region.
It’s also a critical trade route between Ontario and Quebec.
Ministry data from 2019 says almost 87,000 vehicles use the span daily of which roughly 10 per cent are trucks.
Mitigation measures are being put in place.
Girard said traffic is being diverted to highways 20 and 30 and that tolls on Highway 30 are being waived for all road users until the bridge is reopened.
As of 4 p.m. Thursday train service on the exo1 Vaudreuil-Hudson line will be free. The measure will also remain in place until the span reopens.
Police officers are being deployed to strategic areas within the road network to facilitate traffic flow.
The ministry said it is aware the closure will have important repercussions on commuters and is encouraging those who can to consider working from home or using public transit whenever possible.
Last week, emergency work forced the closure of two of three westbound lanes after a “concerning structural issue” was discovered underneath the bridge, creating traffic headaches for commuters.
Girard said building a new bridge is part of the ministry’s 2021-2031 infrastructure plan.
In the meantime, however, regular maintenance is required.
“Commissioned in 1965, the Île-aux-Tourtes bridge is a complex end-of-life structure that requires regular interventions,” he said.
The ministry will be holding a technical briefing Friday morning to address the situation.
— With a file from Global’s Brayden Jagger Haines