(Montreal) Even if it still evokes for some people the memory of “a lot, a lot of traffic”, thousands of people lined up this weekend to get their hands on a rivet from the old Champlain Bridge.
“We had roughly 4,000 pieces to distribute, and we distributed them all. People responded very well to our invitation, we are really very happy,” explained the spokesperson for the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges, Nathalie Lessard, on Sunday.
From 9:30 a.m. on Sunday, pedestrians and motorists braved the pouring rain to collect one of the 2,000 souvenir rivets from the old bridge that were distributed to L’Île-des-Sœurs. A first batch of 2000 rivets was made available on Saturday in Brossard.
“Bridges are important in people’s lives. The Champlain Bridge has been important in people’s lives,” underlines the spokesperson for the Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges, Nathalie Lessard, on Sunday when met by The Canadian Press at the distribution.
“It’s an important symbol and people are happy, even moved, to receive these little souvenir rivets, so we had a good idea,” she adds.
After almost 60 years connecting Montreal and its south shore, the “old” Champlain Bridge was scrapped in 2019 in favor of its successor, the Samuel-De Champlain Bridge, built at a cost of 4.4 billion.
Since then, teams have been working on dismantling it: a vast operation costing 400 million which should be completed by next January. It was as part of this effort that the rivets were removed from the old structure.
Piece of history
When The Canadian Press asked Jeff Harris what memories he had of the old Champlain Bridge, his answer was unequivocal: “The traffic. Lots and lots of traffic. »
With The Canadian Press
However, it was to add another piece of Montreal history to his collection that he wanted to be present at the distribution on Sunday morning, he who already owns a token from the toll booths which were used in the first years of the bridge .
“I hope the new one will last longer,” he jokes.
Nathalie Lessard also mentions that the Champlain Bridge has left its mark in the minds of many people in the Montreal region.
“With 50 million passes per year, many motorists have crossed it and it has become important in people’s lives. »
Easy to give
When Les Ponts Jacques Cartier et Champlain wanted to offer souvenirs of the old bridge, the rivets were chosen for a specific advantage: their size.
“Bridge components are big pieces, so we had to find something that was easy to distribute to people. Rivets came into the discussion quite quickly,” explains M.me Lessard.
Although they are no longer used in modern bridge construction — replaced by nuts and bolts — rivets also have a special meaning, since they were used to hold the bridge structure together.
Despite the effect of nostalgia, the people who lined up to get a rivet had more than just fond memories to share about their experiences on the old bridge.
It must be said that the bridge, which was inaugurated in 1962, was plagued by numerous problems, including a lack of drainage, which led to rapid corrosion.
The federal government announced plans to replace it in 2011, when it was less than 50 years old, after several alarming reports emerged of its deterioration.
For Léah Lavoie, the rivet that she collected on Sunday will therefore serve not only as a souvenir, but also as a reminder of the pitfalls to avoid when she begins her future career as an engineer.
“You shouldn’t make the same mistakes you made in the past,” notes the university graduate, who was even afraid to cross the bridge as a child — for fear it would collapse.
The rivets come with a warning that they may contain traces of lead paint, which has been mitigated by a protective layer of varnish.
The Jacques Cartier and Champlain Bridges plan to recycle approximately 90% of all bridge materials, including 25,000 tons of steel.