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Motorists cross the Champlain Bridge in Montreal on March 18, 2011.Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press

The Quebec government says it wants clarity from Ottawa with respect to the future of Montreal's decaying Champlain Bridge.

The demand came after a summit involving the Premier, provincial Transport Minister and mayors of Montreal-area municipalities Thursday.

Jean Charest says the province has difficult budgetary decisions to make as it must refurbish the crumbling road network around Montreal.

But he says the federal government must play a role, as the Champlain Bridge falls under its jurisdiction.

The span is perhaps the busiest in the country and is considered a vital economic artery, used for shipping to and from the northeastern United States.

Ottawa has been non-commital on its plans for the bridge. Mr. Charest says now's the time to offer some certainty – and he's calling for a plan that includes public transit on a modern bridge.

"Now we want to reiterate, together, loud and clear a very direct and simple message to the federal government: send a clear signal regarding the future of the Champlain Bridge," Mr. Charest told reporters.

"It's one of the busiest bridges in Canada. [We]need a clear message that includes public transit on the Champlain Bridge...

"It's not the first time we express this... But let's hope the federal government doesn't interpret this message today as an attack on the feds. We all need clear signals."

To date, federal Transport Minister Denis Lebel has only said the government is studying all options.

Among the alternatives are a new bridge – with a $1.3-billion price tag – or a $1.9-billion tunnel.

It is estimated that roughly $20-billion in international trade crosses the Champlain Bridge each year. But recent engineering reports say the 49-year-old bridge is at risk of collapse and must be replaced soon.