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Nouveau pont Champlain; Nouveau pont Champlain;

Samuel De Champlain Bridge, Montreal, Quebec

One of the largest infrastructure projects in North America

The Samuel De Champlain Bridge highlights Arup's global expertise bringing an innovative approach to the procurement of a multi-billion dollar infrastructure project in Canada. By providing timely, comprehensive technical and procurement advice, we have helped the Government of Canada to meet all project deadlines and thus realise an incredibly aggressive schedule.

Since 2012, Arup has been providing expert technical advice to the Government of Canada to facilitate the replacement of the 3.4km-long Champlain Bridge over the St Lawrence River and Seaway and 4km of congested urban highway. It is one of the busiest corridors in Canada and is vital to both the local and national economy.

Our global team delivered a technically viable, affordable solution for inclusion in the 2013 business case which established the project costs, and the best means of procurement. When the condition of the existing bridge deteriorated in the Fall of 2013, Arup accepted the challenge of developing the design and technical requirement for this complex $4.239bn (CDN) PPP project so that the RFQ and RFP could be released within nine months.

The challenge was compounded by the objective to deliver a high quality architectural solution, while achieving a bridge with a 125-year design life. Arup led a team of international and local architects and specialists to create a unique signature bridge design, sensitive to the needs of Montreal and with the appeal to become a new icon on the St. Lawrence River for the city of Montreal and Canada as a whole.

The curved alignment and sculptural piers create an instantly recognisable shore-to-shore design with the elegant main tower and its harp of cables adding a unique accent to the bridge. The design accommodates future public transport plans by retaining the flexibility to run buses or a light rail train on a central transit corridor.

Delivering an iconic solution

Arup developed a preliminary design and contractual documentation that met the client and external stakeholder’s requirements for a durable but high quality architecturally pleasing bridge. The technical challenge was escalated as time did not permit an architectural design competition, and simply describing aesthetic requirements within traditional procurement documentation can lead to unexpected results.

By drawing on our experience from the Forth Replacement Crossing and Oresund bridges, we knew that the most effective means of ensuring a high-quality design was to develop both reference and definition designs, in parallel with the development of the technical requirements and tender documents. These designs serve two separate, but complementary, functions by:

  • Helping to define the project’s technical requirements and thus inform the cost and schedule estimates (through the reference design).

  • Clarifying the owner’s intentions in terms of aesthetics to the bidders, ensuring that technical and visual dimensions of the design are considered simultaneously, and providing a plan for safeguarding architectural integrity through the final stages of the project (through the definition design).

While it is common to prepare a reference design, clients do not typically focus much effort on it as they know that the final design will almost certainly be very different. In this case, Arup developed a reference design to demonstrate there was a technically viable design, which respected the project schedule, was architecturally pleasing and cost effective. We then used the reference design to prepare a definition design, which includes a set of drawings showing the requirements for configuration, geometry, and form for the final bridge.

The benefit of this approach was that the Government of Canada was able to confidently release images of the new bridge in the summer of 2014, prior to the selection of a PPP partner, and then reconfirm to the public and stakeholders, on the selection of a consortium to complete the design and construction, that the bridge would indeed respect the design intent proposed by Arup. 

The bridge opened to the public in 2019.