If you drive over the new Champlain Bridge this weekend you'll notice a massive gap in its predecessor.
The removal of the 117-meter centre stretch of the old bridge from Montreal to the South Shore began Thursday night before it was hauled off on two barges down the St. Lawrence River on Friday.
Workers removed the section weighing around 22-hundred tonnes using hydraulic jacks and cables before lowering it 33 meters onto the barges down below over several hours.
The federal agency which operates the bridge said this step of the deconstruction process could only be completed this time of year, when there are no commercial shipping activities along the seaway.
The operation, which depended on low winds, was carried out by a crew of about 50 people.
"Nearly two years of design, coordination and detailed planning have gone into today's lowering of the main span, which is a unique operation in Canada," project director Fabrice Guedon said in a statement Thursday.
"Although this type of work is carried out occasionally around the world, it has never been done on this scale in Canada, especially in winter conditions and under the operational constraints of this project."
The large span of the bridge will be held in a facility in Brossard until the pieces are dismantled in the spring, at which point they can be recycled to be used in another project.
On Dec. 31, applications for companies and organizations looking to reuse the old steel materials closed. The winner is expected to be announced by spring, the federal agency said.
"90 per cent of the 287-tonnes of materials from the project will be recycled and reused," said Oliver Vincent, an engineer with the project, in a video published by the federal agency on Thursday.
The deconstruction that began 18 month is ago is now halfway complete and has included the removal of 26 spans, 14 piers and four footings from the old bridge.
The project is expected to be completed on time for its 2024 deadline, the federal agency added.