Dreaming the Montreal Ring Road Dream

by Carroll McCormick

MONTREAL, Que. – For through truckers the A-30 ring road bypassing Montreal will be a beautiful thing. No more battling traffic across the Island and bridges; it will be clear sailing south of the metropolis. In 2010. Or 2011.

Although the completion date has slipped from 2009, at least this project, chronically-stalled for decades, has gained enough momentum this time that it just might roll across the finish line.

“My personal feeling is that there is an extremely good possibility that it will be built. I think both governments are committed and I can tell you that we have all the funding necessary to go ahead with the project,” says Paul-Andre Fournier, director of the Bureau de l’A-30, which is coordinating the activities leading up to the construction of the A-30.

The most recent hopeful sign was the Nov. 5 announcement by Ottawa and Quebec of the imminent launch of a request for qualifications (RFQ) to identify potential private partners to complete the 35-kilometre, western section of the A-30 under a public-private partnership.

A short list of no more than three finalists from the RFQ will be invited to submit their proposals for the project, from which a winner will be chosen.

The ring road is considered to be two projects: The provincially-owned and operated eastern section, about eight kilometres long, will run east-west just south of Candiac, Delson and Saint-Catherine.

It will link the end of the existing divided A-30 where it pooped out years ago in Candiac to a lonely stretch of four-lane A-30 that starts in Saint-Catherine and shrinks down into Highway 132 after about 10 kilometres.

The intersection where the A-30 will cross over the A-15 at Candiac is already under construction, as is the overpass over the future A-30 in Chateauguay. The eastern section might be finished in 2009, and 45,000 vehicles a day, including 6,750 trucks, says Fournier, will immediately occupy it.

Once over this bridge, drivers can turn right onto the 530 to Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, or left to continue along the A-30. They will cross a three-kilometre long bridge soaring 40-metres above the Beauharnois Canal, part of the St-Lawrence Seaway, after which the A-30 will take them to the existing section in St-Catherine, then the eastern section, across the South Shore and to points east.

The western section will be an open-road system toll road like the privately-run 407 north of Toronto. Transponders will be the preferred technology for tracking and billing users – cheap and already in use by truckers equipped for the 407 and some US toll roads. Toll costs will be proportional, that is, you pay for what you drive.

What will the toll cost?

“We have made a financial analysis of tolls versus traffic. This is something we are not ready to release now. It will be given to the potential partners, but will be made public only when the Requests for Tender are back,” says Fournier.

Quebec is taking seriously the lessons learned from the 407, such as billing errors and no government control over rising tolls.

“We visited the officials from the Ontario Ministry of Transport and we have a lot of information on what is happening on the 407,” Fournier says.

“Our lawyers are in the process of drafting a preliminary agreement. It think it will be handled better than the 407. There will be a form of control over the tolls. We don’t want to be involved in the rate fixing, but we will provide guidelines…I can’t dig deeper into that subject, but there will be some limits. We will require a level of performance from the tolling system. If it doesn’t meet our requirements, the company will face monetary penalties.”

The A-30 will perform miracles for the crisis that passes for traffic on Montreal Island. Surveys indicate that at least 3,500 trucks a day will abandon the A-40 for the A-30.

Transports Quebec estimates the A-30 will cut travel times to points on the other side of the island by about 25%; for example, the drive from Vaudreuil-Dorion to Candiac from 62 minutes down to 43 minutes. In heavy traffic, however, the spread will be far more profound.

See great animations of the western and eastern sections of the A-30 on Transports Quebec home page: www.mtq.gouv.qc.ca .

Click ‘Parachevement de l’autoroute 30’ to find them.

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