MONTREAL, Que. - Truckers who would otherwise bypass Montreal Island will be stuck with the view of the Champlain Bridge for a few more years, but they can take some comfort from a November presentation during which Quebec's Minister of Transport...
GETTING CLOSER TO COMPLETION: The Quebec provincial government says Route A30 will finally be finished but not until 2009.
MONTREAL, Que. – Truckers who would otherwise bypass Montreal Island will be stuck with the view of the Champlain Bridge for a few more years, but they can take some comfort from a November presentation during which Quebec’s Minister of Transport Yvon Marcoux reported solid progress on the Autoroute 30 ring road.
The reaction from Luc Dussault, director of communications with the South Shore Chamber of Commerce and Industry says it all: “Before it was just a dream. Now it is a construction site.”
If all the hustle and bustle Marcoux described means that his department is really, really going to finish the A30, begun in 1968, Montreal will have its ring road by 2009.
The talk is that it will be a public/private partnership and probably a toll road, but hopefully truck tolls will be offset by savings in fuel, wear and tear and logbook hours.
Back-of-the-napkin calculations suggest the drive from where the A30 now crosses the A10, just before the Champlain Bridge, to where the A30 will meet the A20 west of the island, should take a half-hour, compared to 45 minutes to cross the congested island on an empty highway (two hours or more during the ever-worsening peak traffic times).
Funded with $21 million (half from Infrastructure Canada, half from Quebec), Transport Quebec has achieved a lot this year: In the past six months it has completed surveys and ground tests on the 35-km western portion of the ring road, as well as having resolved various technical difficulties.
In the next six months Transport Quebec will establish the private/public partnership (PPP) process.
All of the expropriation decrees have been obtained, 95 per cent of property owners have received information letters and 50 per cent have received notices of expropriation.
Negotiations with various public utilities have begun and a project to relocate Hydro Quebec high-tension lines has been developed.
In the next six months more property owners will receive their notices and the power lines and buildings will have been moved.
Within six months a study comparing a PPP and conventional methods for doing highway projects will be complete, and calls for tender will be published.
About a quarter of the surveying and all of the ground tests were completed in the last six months for the 7-km eastern portion of the route, to be funded entirely by Quebec, at a cost of at least $178 million.
And in the next six months the completed survey work is slated to reach 85 per cent, calls for tenders will be prepared and the request for a decree for expropriation made.
The final location of a 3.4-km section of the A30 east of the north/south A15, called the Jean-Leman, is still not quite cast in asphalt.
In the last six months environmental impact studies were completed and preliminary pre-project work was done.
Over the next six months the process of getting environmental and agricultural authorizations will begin.
The project office team has already been assembled and a request for tender for support and management has also been issued.
At the November press conference Minister Marcoux also reminded everyone that the federal government and Quebec have a ratified contract which states they will co-finance the completion of the A30.
No dollar amounts have been announced beyond the $21 million outlay last May, but Infrastructure Canada says that further announcements will follow Quebec’s preparation of a budget for the project.
Estimates have put the total project cost at some $600 million.
The trick now is to keep the project moving forward and hope that nothing, such as a change in government, either federal or provincial, will delay the ring road further.
The project has been blown off course by changing political winds in the past.
Transport Quebec has promised, however, to issue a progress report every six months.
Some temper their optimism with caution.
For example, Quebec is still debating how it will define the private/public partnership, according to Federal Bridge Corporation’s vice president of communications Andr Girard.
“Quebec is still debating how to finance their portion of the A30. Things are not progressing as quickly as we would like,” he said.
The Quebec Trucking Association, a longtime supporter of completing the A30, says it will be vigilant in making sure that tolls, should they be introduced, are fair.
As for South Shore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, it’s staying on the case, says Dussault. “We are a bit of a guard dog for the progress of the project.” Dussault says.
“The president of the chamber asked the transport minister to shorten the construction time.”
This would be nice, considering how remarkably Montreal-area traffic has grown in the last decade. So far, announcements of a completion date have not wavered from the projected 2009.