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Montreal traffic troubles far from temporary

MONTREAL, Que. - "The following lanes will be closed for major roadwork from eleven o'clock Tuesday till five o'clock Wednesday: Two of the three lanes on the Champlain Bridge in the Montreal direction; two of the three northbound lanes on the...


MONTREAL, Que. – “The following lanes will be closed for major roadwork from eleven o’clock Tuesday till five o’clock Wednesday: Two of the three lanes on the Champlain Bridge in the Montreal direction; two of the three northbound lanes on the Decarie Expressway; two of three lanes on the eastbound 132 near Boucherville; the complete closure of the eastbound Metropolitan between the A-640 and Henri-Bourassa…have you been thinking of buying a new car? Well here’s a sweet deal…”

This could be the sound of AM radio this fall if Cogeco Diffusion receives permission from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission to start operating two radio stations dedicated to traffic reporting in the Montreal metropolitan area. Cogeco, which owns a string of radio stations across Quebec, has signed a deal with Transports Quebec to operate radio stations dedicated to providing traffic updates and road work information until 2014. Cogeco wants to operate them on the 690 and 940 AM frequencies.

As the road and bridge repair work in Montreal grinds on and on, Transports Quebec is looking for ways to keep drivers informed of schedules, congestion and alternate routes; please, don’t ask what happens when everyone flocks to alternate routes.

For example, on its Info Transports Web site (www.quebec511.gouv.qc.ca/fr/index.asp) surfers can get chapter and verse on road construction and see for themselves how bad the congestion is.

For example, a detailed map of the Island of Montreal and the surrounding ‘burbs show 44 major work sites, affecting through traffic on the Trans-Canada and local traffic just north, east and south of the Island.

Clicking on a major work sign opens a window containing detailed information on the affected route, exits and on-ramps, construction schedules, type of work and closure times.

Locals and truckers that pass through town are likely to be savvy to the gulag-grim congestion these closures are causing.

For those who are not, however, the map is awe-inspiring; for example, once enlarged a couple of clicks, it shows an astonishing 120 webcams or so: 90 of them along the major routes on the Island and another 30 just off the Island. One might be able to patch together the kilometres-long back-up of traffic trying to head off-island over the Champlain Bridge on a weekend. Wait times can exceed two hours.

After the westbound lane closures on the Honore-Mercier Bridge, thanks to the discovery of dodgy gusset plates that help hold the bridge together, trucks and cars fled to the Champlain, Victoria and Jacques-Cartier bridges and the Lafontaine Tunnel.

The traffic jams on approaches to these crossings have been a sight, but there was a piece of good news from Transports Quebec this summer: It announced that it hoped to re-open those westbound lanes in early September. That, of course, was entirely dependent on how well the “sensitive” gusset plate replacement work progressed.

Unfortunately, as fast as Transports Quebec spots and begins working on one problem, another problem drops, literally, into its lap.

For example, at the end of July a big chunk of the Ville Marie Tunnel roof collapsed; the Ville Marie Tunnel (A-720) moves traffic under parts of the centre of Montreal. Lanes were closed and the noose tightened as more tens of thousands of vehicles were forced to find other ways around town.

Transports Quebec is not inspiring confidence by its paternalistic refusal to make public detailed inspection reports on structures like the Champlain and Mercier bridges.

It is not comforting, for example, to see the large areas of corrupted concrete and exposed rebar on the support columns and undersides of the elevated roads on the Turcot Interchange near the edge of downtown Montreal. The government released a plan, costing $3 billion and about eight years’ worth of construction, to replace the Turcot Interchange, through which, incidentally, the Trans-Canada Highway runs. The construction itself should inspire a whole new generation of desperate drivers, but if something bad happens along the way, like a chunk of road falling out of the sky, the traffic situation will go straight to hell in a hand basket.

Next year some relief, in the form of the A-30 ring road around Montreal, will come to through-truckers and motorists who have no business on the Island; Transports Quebec is still saying that the A-30 will be completed in 2012.

This June construction on the new interchange of the A-20 and A-30, just west of Vaudreuil-Dorion, as one approaches the Island of Montreal from Toronto, was going fast and furious. Something like a square kilometre of the landscape looked liked it had been flipped like a pancake and the curves of the exits south and north were taking shape.

Not only will thousands of vehicles not have to join the Montreal traffic maelstrom, local drivers will have a completely new novelty detour on which to while away the happy hours.


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