SALABERRY-DE-VALLEYFIELD, Que. —A lot of trucks are rolling through the city of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, just east of Montreal, to avoid the A30 ring road toll. Residents are feeling the squeeze.
“The increase in the volume of trucks on the boulevard Monseigneur-Langlois is making the north-south traffic in our city more difficult…and sometimes dangerous,” says Denis Lapointe, the mayor of Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. “Some of the trucks have the habit of rolling alongside other trucks, and it becomes difficult for motorists to squeeze into a lane to their destination. Many cars find themselves cornered between trucks, which affects their visibility and safety.”
It seems that several more hundred truckers a day prefer to take Route 201, with its 10 traffic lights and languid speed zones, than cough up $1.85 an axle to take the fast and uncongested ring road.
Eastbound, vehicles can take Exit 14 to avoid the toll section of the A30, and re-enter the A30 downstream at Exit 12/13. Reverse the order for the westbound dodge. Unlike, say, the alternative, and virtually empty, route through the Wentworth Valley that avoids Nova Scotia’s Cobequid Pass Toll Highway, the 201 through Salaberry-de-Valleyfield (called Boulevard Monseigneur-Langlois in town) can really hop.
As of 2014, 30,000 vehicles a day took the four-lane boulevard. This is 6,000 less per day than in 2011 – just before the toll road opened. At the same time, however, truck traffic has increased from 2,600 to 2,900 a day. And the number of trucks over 41 feet long has jumped by somewhere between 45% and 60%, to around 700 a day.
These numbers contradict the notion that it is mere urban legend that lots of rigs are dodging the tolls.
According to Lapointe, 40% of those rigs are just passing through, and not always with grace and élan, either. On boulevard Monseigneur-Langlois proper, where there are eight lights, a lot of trucks, having built up a head of steam coming off a light, are running the next red, according to Lapointe. Some trucks may also be exceeding their weight limits. (Route 201 also neatly avoids a weigh station on the A20.) “The truckers occupy the space and the control too often,” Lapointe says.
Just how much water the weight worry holds is a good question. According to the Société de l’assurance d’automobile du Quebec (SAAQ), a Contrôle routier Quebec (responsible for enforcing truck regulations) team patrols this trouble sector every week. Also, Contrôle routier Quebec also stages a major inspection operation on the 201 every year.
“It must be realized that trucks have the right to take this route into Valleyfield. Nothing is forbidden about it. Our role is to see that the transporters respect the rules, and this is the case,” says SAAQ media representative Eric Santerre. Transports Quebec also notes that the 201 is, after all, a legitimate, public, alternative road to the A30.
This notwithstanding, wheels are in motion to do something about this rumble. Transports Quebec is on the case, and while declining, despite repeated requests, to reveal possible solutions, Mayor Lapointe is not so shy.
“There is talk of synchronizing the lights…reconfiguring certain intersections to make the traffic more fluid, or building an interior route that would reduce the transfer of cars into the commercial district via the boulevard Monseigneur-Langlois. There is also talk of installing a weigh scale in the road…and talk of photo radar at intersections to reduce the running of red lights by the trucks.”
Lapointe’s favourite solutions include reconfiguring the intersections to make it easier to get from the north to the south end of town, more truck discipline, a designated truck lane and, he emphasizes, “More control over the weight!”
It is to wonder whether taking the 201 to save $10 is really worth it. Granted, the alternative is 4.7 kms shorter than the 20/30 between Exits 14 and 12/13, but at least six kms of that are herky-jerky 50 and 70 km/h zones peppered with those 10 traffic lights. The back-of-envelope opinion of one traffic engineer I consulted was that the average speed through a corridor like this, at 90% congestion, would be around 20 km/h. A little road test done by a friend in a similar town, in off-peak traffic, clocked an average of 24.5 km/h in his car.
Truckers can also expect a 25% increase in fuel consumption through town, maybe worth an extra couple of bucks. A Google route calculator puts the 201 route time at three minutes slower than the toll road, but in rush hour it is surely more.
But, like they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and truckers are gobbling this town right up!