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In search of the A-30

MONTREAL, Que. - Having followed, since 2003, the thrills and spills of planning, squabbling and eventual funding of the completion of the A-30 ring road around Montreal, I was excited to read that ea...


COMING ALONG: The A-30 marches across the St. Lawrence River.
COMING ALONG: The A-30 marches across the St. Lawrence River.

MONTREAL, Que. –Having followed, since 2003, the thrills and spills of planning, squabbling and eventual funding of the completion of the A-30 ring road around Montreal, I was excited to read that earlier this year Quebec had printed the last $531.8 million required to complete the A-30 over the next two years.

It will be the salvation of truckers, the overworked Champlain bridge and everyone else who suffer the tortures of crossing Montreal en-route to points east or west. I hopped in The Tomato (my little red Yaris), slipped Willie Nelson’s ‘Slow Down old World’ in the CD player (just kidding) and went a-looking for dirt and ‘dozers that matched the pictures on the Internet.

One of the first parts of the A-30, built decades ago, crosses the A-10, which leads to the Champlain Bridge and Montreal. One of the early successes of the reactivated project was to extend it westward across the southbound A-15, which takes traffic to New York state.

Currently, this lovely stretch of A-30 leads, lobster trap-like, onto Highway 132, which takes me through five ruthless kilometres of dusty retail ghetto from Delson to Sainte-Catherine. Mercifully, the A-30 will run south of and parallel to this mid-apocalyptic vision.

I turn off the 132 onto a 13-kilometre stretch of A-30, also built decades ago. Partway along, I gawk over my left shoulder to catch a glimpse of a swooping overpass in the field. Too soon, the old A-30 poops out and becomes old two-lane 132 again.

According to my map, I should be able to turn left away from the St. Lawrence River onto the Rue de la Gare and maybe spot some more construction. Sure enough, after 10 kilometres I see an orange sign. I motor up over a little hill and there, completely alone in a vast field stretching east and west as far as the eye can see, sits a completed overpass. There is not a soul in sight. A sign announces that this is Chantier No. (work site) 513. Dozers have roughed out the A-30: a fat line of muck curves away and disappears in the distance.

My next chance to see tax dollars at work is from Chemin de la Beauce, nine kilometres further along. Here, Chantier No. 516 marks the spot: a partially completed overpass very close to some lucky Ferme Clement barns. The A-30 here has been overlain with crushed rock.

Volvo dump trucks, Cat dozers, Chenoil excavators and workmen litter the site. Foam packages, each about 4x6x8 feet, are stacked in a dazzling white pile maybe 24 feet high, 50 feet wide and most of a kilometre long. I estimate that there are over 5,000 of these blocks, with more coming off the back of a flatbed. I’ve seen them packed around overpasses on to-be-twinned sections of the 185 between Riviere du Loup and the New Brunswick border, but I’m vague on exactly what gets insulated from what.

My next stop is Chantier No. 531. The only sign of the A-30 here is an “Access Interdit” sign, a couple of piles of gravel and some unsuspecting houses. But about a kilometre to the west I see huge piles of dirt and five cranes poking at the sky. I try to get closer but after a half-hour circling like a buzzard, I call it quits on a wee lane in the middle of another cornfield. The cranes are still a kilometre away. Too bad, because from there I might have been able to see how it’s going on the construction of a 2,550-metre long bridge that will soar more than 38 metres above the St. Lawrence Seaway at the Beauharnois Canal.

I backtrack and proceed further west on the 132. I tunnel under the Seaway. Soon afterward I park where the A-30 is growing across the St. Lawrence and shooting north to meet the A-20 west of Vaudreuil-Dorion, a few clicks west of Montreal Island. On my side, 16 pillars rise up. A worker flaps a tarp. On the other side of the river the not yet bridge-like bridge heads this way. This 1,860-metre long structure will be finished in October 2012. The toll will settle somewhere between 30 and 60 cents per axle.

Satisfied and dry as a bone from the hot afternoon, I chill under some oaks with something cold and German, then steer The Tomato toward home.

Remember that swooping overpass? The best I can figure it, the new A-30 will veer under it, race south of the 132 that slashes through that shopping district, and link up with the A-30 at the A-10. See you there with the hammer down in 2012!


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