History Through Our Eyes: July 26, 1990, Champlain Bridge Chips

The tokens had been rendered useless the previous May, when the tolls were suddenly removed from the bridge.

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The deadline to redeem the Champlain Bridge tokens was just days away when this photo was published in the Montreal Gazette on July 26, 1990.

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The tokens had been rendered useless the previous May, when the tolls were suddenly removed from the bridge. Those caught with the chips were given until August 2 to take them to one of three designated Banque Nationale branches for a refund. The coin-shaped discs were worth eight cents each, though anyone paying cash at the toll booth had been required to shell out more than a quarter since the bridge’s opening in 1962.

Allen McInnis’s photo shows Banque Nationale official René Arbor with a container full of chips. Behind him are bags containing around 300,000 more, we wrote.

When asked to explain the decision to stop charging tolls, federal Transportation Undersecretary Jean Corbeil said it was at the request of the public. La Prairie MP Fernand Jourdenais, like Corbeil, a Progressive Conservative, had been a strong supporter, we reported.

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An old Champlain Bridge toll token photographed at the Gazette studio in Montreal on Monday, October 17, 2011.
An old Champlain Bridge toll token photographed at the Gazette studio in Montreal on Monday, October 17, 2011. Photo by Dario Ayala /The Gazette

However, not everyone was happy to see the removal of the toll booths, which had been the last in Quebec. Another South Shore MP, Phil Edmonston of the NDP, called it a “bloody disgrace”, saying the revenue was needed to fund public transport. Presumably, the 42 toll booth workers who lost their jobs weren’t happy either.

Of course, not only are the bridge tiles gone, but the old Champlain Bridge, made unsafe by corrosion issues, is no longer in use. It is in the process of being demolished. The new Samuel-De Champlain section opened in 2019.

Compiling the original 2019 series in book form, History Through Our Eyes: Photos of People and Events That Shaped 20th Century Montreal is available online at montrealhistorybooks.com and at local bookstores. A portion of the proceeds of the books sold at the online address will go to the Gazette Christmas Fund.

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