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For whom the toll bells

MONTREAL, Que. - This June Transports Quebec announced a 35-year public-private partnership (PPP) agreement for the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of the last section of th...


MONTREAL, Que. – This June Transports Quebec announced a 35-year public-private partnership (PPP) agreement for the design, construction, financing, operation and maintenance of the last section of the Autoroute 25. Once the 7.2-kilometre section is built, traffic passing through the Louis Hippolyte Lafontaine Tunnel onto the Island of Montreal, and traffic on the Metropolitan Boulevard (A40) will be able to make a straight run north to A440 in Laval, and vice versa. The papers for the agreement should be signed this fall and the A25 completed in 2011. There will be a toll.

The competed A25 will mostly finish a ladder-shaped network of Autoroutes and major roads over the Island of Montreal and Ile Jesus (occupied primarily by the city of Laval) to its immediate north: the parallel and east-west running A40 and A440 across Montreal Island and Ile Jesus, respectively, joined by north-south running “rungs”: the A13, A15, A19 (Papineau) Pie-IX and A25.

Unfortunately, the A19 is not entirely an Autoroute, Pie-IX is an overburdened, uncontrolled-access urban boulevard and the A25 pooped out at Henri Bourassa, just north of the Met and well short of the A440.

As it stands, trucks heading from Laval to Montreal East have to trek down Pie-IX, then along Henri Bourassa in order to reach the A25, a waste of time and fuel that has become steadily worse as Montreal traffic becomes more and more sludge-like.

The A25 extension promises to improve fuel efficiency, reduce stress on drivers and cut transit times.

“The completion of the A25 will definitely improve our operations. We make a lot of deliveries to the South Shore,” says Alain Bouchard, director of operations with Transport Laurentien in Laval. The company has 40 trucks. Bouchard expects that a completed A25 will make trips much faster.

Jean-Yves Gauthier, the director general of Transport Dionne (Canille), also in Laval, agrees. His 13 trucks take Pie-IX frequently to reach the Lafontaine Tunnel and the A25 will help him “enormously.”

One estimate puts the number of trucks that will be able to shorten their journeys by using the A25 at 6,000 a day, in each direction by 2016.

It appears to be fact that the A25 will be tolled, part of the new reality here with the emergence of the P3s; e.g., the western portion of the A30 ring road, a P3 project, will be tolled. Ask Gauthier what he thinks a fair toll would be and he says that a fair price would be $2 for trucks and $1 for cars – a reasonable trade for the reduction in lost time, he figures.

Marc Cadieux, the president and director general of the Quebec Trucking Association (QTA), says, “We have a resolution from the board here that we are not opposed to (a toll on the A25).”

However, the QTA has also drafted a list of conditions that must be met for it to support tolls. Among them, it has to be a new road, which explains the QTA’s utter opposition to the recently-floated proposal to perhaps toll existing roads into Montreal. Too, it points to the critical need for Quebec to somehow find the cash and willpower to upsize the road network to fit today’s economy.

To illustrate, truck traffic alone over the Champlain Bridge has doubled to two million a year since the early 1990s.

It takes hardly more than a stalled car or an accident to gridlock the city, in which the old concept of “rush hour” has very nearly completed its evolution into the new reality: “rush day.”

The QTA also stipulates that for any toll road there must be an alternative route with no toll; that the tariff must be the same for all users – i.e., all trucks, with no discrimination; the toll must be such that it will encourage trucks to use it; and the collection method must be harmonious and efficient. The toll price for the A25 (and the A30) has not been released. A black-hat question begs to be asked: Given that the centre lane of the stretch of A25 between the A40 and the Lafontaine Tunnel is already an unbroken mass of trucks during rush hour and that it can take an hour to get from the A40 to the Tunnel, won’t the tens of thousands of cars and trucks fleeing Pie-IX and Henri Bourassa onto the completed A25 simply back up this existing daily gridlock another 7.2 clicks to the A440?


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