Delivering sustainable infrastructure

25 November 2019

Bridges have been crucially important to societies for centuries. Bridges allow safe passage where previously it was not possible or much more difficult. To see how bridges have been changing societies and have changed over the last sixty years, take a boat up the St. Lawrence River. As downtown Montreal approaches on the western shore and the suburbs of La Prairie and Brossard appear to the east, the 3,400 meter Champlain Bridge spans the river to connect the two shores.

Replacing a national icon

Conceived in 1955, the Champlain Bridge soon became the country’s busiest. The rugged truss design – with the bridge deck enclosed in a triangular arrangement of steel girders – is strong, simple and characteristic of its era. Fifty million cars, buses and trucks cross the bridge each year. Over nearly sixty years of service, this has led to considerable wear and tear, compounded by the road salt that keeps roads clear through Montreal’s long winters. Over time the bridge has demanded ever more frequent maintenance. For this reason, authorities started planning to build its replacement in 2013.

Strength and sustainability

The towers of the New Champlain Bridge rise 170 meters above the St. Lawrence River. The bridge deck is suspended from cables which are attached to the towers, following the bridge’s elegant twin cable-stayed design. The bridge was built in less than four years and opened to traffic in June 2019. In addition to the six vehicle traffic lanes, the bridge offers different sustainable transit options, such as a multi-use corridor for pedestrians and cyclists and a two-lane rail corridor for the electric train, which will come into operation in the next two years. Its more modern design helped assure quicker construction and a more economical use of materials. The design also promises lower maintenance as well as an expected service life that’s more than twice as long as its predecessor. The Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure has designated the New Champlain Bridge as ENVISION-certified, the prominent North American standard.

lafargeholcim canada champlain bridge people river
The role of LafargeCanada

LafargeCanada played a big part in reaching this new level of sustainability. More than 1.5 million tons of sustainably-sourced aggregates were delivered by truck from a nearby quarry to construct the piers and surrounding road infrastructure. An additional 700,000 tons were delivered by barge for the central jetty, minimizing greenhouse gas emissions related to the transportation of aggregates and reducing traffic on local roads and highways. More than 165,000 m3 of high performance concrete, or 22,000 truckloads, were delivered throughout the project. Concrete of these specifications had never been used before in North America, meeting criteria of low heat release, high performance compressive strength, and sufficient for the intended 125-year lifespan.

A global effort to work sustainably

We operate more than 600 aggregates plants worldwide. All of our quarries are required to have a rehabilitation plan as one of the company’s operating principles. We are also increasingly supplying recycled aggregates, which can be made from construction waste as well as the materials left over after demolition, particularly in urban areas. These recycled aggregates replace the need for quarry extraction and contribute to a truly circular economy in building.