Residents and workplaces in Quebec City and Lévis are bracing themselves for a major road closure and heavy traffic as work on the Pierre-Laporte Bridge gets underway tonight.
Only one lane in each direction will be open to traffic from 10 p.m. on June 27 until July 7, and then again from Aug. 8 to 18, as the bridge is repaved and undergoes maintenance work.
"We're obviously expecting a lot of traffic on the bridge," Transportation Ministry spokesperson Émilie Lord said. "We're asking people to postpone their trips if they can, avoid the area and take public transit."
Quebec City officials are also asking that anyone who is able to work from home during the construction do so.
The city's buses will be running on a more frequent schedule during the bridge work, and a 30 per cent discount is being offered on certain fares.
The ferry that runs between Lévis and Quebec City is scheduled to have departures every 40 minutes instead of every hour when the construction starts.
A shuttle bus that goes from the Lévis campus of the Université du Québec à Rimouski to the ferry will also be available.
Priority access on the bridge and surrounding streets will be given to buses and emergency vehicles, the city said in a release.
Quebec City police also announced they will be tweeting colour-coded traffic reports every hour, during rush hours, throughout the construction period.
Last week, Quebec helicopter rental agency, GoHelico, announced it will also have a helicopter shuttle available to those trying to avoid the roads — but it won't be cheap.
The helicopter rides will be available between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. every day during the construction and will cost about $90 per 10-minute ride.
"We've had people that called us, industries, companies that didn't know what to do — like hospitals and places that need to have their employees at work," said general manager Stéphanie Huot.
The helicopters can accommodate up to three passengers at a time, and will go back and forth from the Complexe Capitale Hélicoptère in Quebec City to the Aérodrome de Pintendre in Lévis.
Companies rent hotels
Some companies on both sides of the bridge are opting to have their employees avoid commuting entirely over the next 10 days — by changing schedules or paying for their employees to stay at hotels instead.
At Desharnais Pneus et Mécanique, some employees are temporarily transferring locations during the construction, to avoid crossing the bridge.
Others are being encouraged to take their vacations that week, or be put up in a hotel.
"Of course the nights in a hotel and all that has a cost," said Mélanie Desharnais, vice-president of the company. "But what do you want to do? We had the choice of either that or not having our employees."
About 15 to 20 employees out of the 200 who work at Desharnais Pneus et Mécanique are affected by the bridge closure, Desharnais said.
Meanwhile at construction company Coffrage LD, nearly a quarter of the 400 people who work there are affected by the bridge closure. The company has decided to rent out hotel rooms for its employees and to temporarily make the switch to a four-day work week.
"We're offering a 40-hour week over four days instead of a 40-hour week over five days," said general manager Cindy Drouin. "It allows us to take advantage of the summer even if traffic will be more difficult."