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Record spending on tap for Quebec road network

MONTREAL, Que. - Quebec has announced it will spend $3 billion on its road network this year and next, the first of a projected $12 billion it wants to spend between 2008 and 2012. Putting this in per...

MONTREAL, Que. – Quebec has announced it will spend $3 billion on its road network this year and next, the first of a projected $12 billion it wants to spend between 2008 and 2012. Putting this in perspective, the annual spending between 1994 and 2002 averaged $700 million. Annual spending between 2003 and 2012 will be just over $2 billion.

Huge amounts of this money will be used for upkeep on existing structures – Quebec does have those dodgy bridges and overpasses hanging over its head – and roads, including oodles of paving projects to keep fleets of steamrollers rumbling nonstop. There is also a lot of money allocated to extending highways and enlarging existing routes; e. g., from two lanes to four lanes.

Some highlights:The biggest pile of money – $435.6 million – goes to the Moneregie region south and east of Montreal. Nearly half that will go to upkeep, but $118 million will be spent on the construction of the desperately-needed A-30 ring road, but not to completion, of the 35-kilometre, western section between Vaudreuil-Dorion and Chateauguay.

Also of note is $38.5 million to be spent on continuing the transformation of highway 133 into the A-35. This road, the busiest north-south highway between Quebec and the United States, after Autoroute 15 between Montreal and New York State, consists of 19 kilometres of Autoroute-class highway on the north end and five A-class kilometres connecting the other end to the Saint-Armand/Phillipsburg border and Interstate 89. In between are 34 km of highway that has no business carrying the traffic burden it does. In 1995 Transports Quebec announced it would start this work in 2009, but since completing the A-35 was projected to cost about $250 million, one would expect further funding announcements in 2010.

Montreal Island receives the second biggest chunk of funding:$402.8 million. Major projects include: rebuilding the Galipeault Bridge linking the Island to Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue ($51M); preparatory work for the eventual reconstruction of the Turcot interchange ($51.8M); the A-25 extension ($122.7M);and work on the Louis-Hippolyte-LaFontaine and neighbouring infrastructure.

The provincial capital region will receive $262.1 million in road system work: there are so many smaller projects up and down the north side of the St-Laurence River east and west of Quebec City that the map looks like it has measles. The biggest single project, however, will be the $92 million spent to turn large stretches of Highway 174, which takes traffic north of Quebec City into the boondocks into a four-lane divided highway. The Chaudiere-Appalaches region south of Quebec City will get $190 million and over 195 construction sites will be on the go. Major work is planned for Highway 73, including extending it between Beauceville et Saint-Georges.

Bas-Saint-Laurent, which includes Riviere-du-Loup, Rimouski and Matane, and territory south to the US and New Brunswick borders in eastern Quebec (but not the far east) are up for $166 million worth of work. Nearly $92M will be spent on new infrastructure, notably $57M for work to continue the upgrade of Highway 185 from Riviere-du-Loup to the NB border from country road to A-85 status.

About nine kilometres of the 185 has already been twinned, at a cost of $113.8 million, but about 80 km remains to be twinned. Earlier estimates of the cost of completing this stretch ran to just over $1 billion, so the $57 million that Transports Quebec has allocated to this project makes clear that the dream of one long four-lane divided highway that could carrying long combination vehicles from Halifax to Toronto is still several years away.

In the Maurice region, which includes Trois-Riviere and points north, $109.9 million has been allocated over more than 141 construction sites. Work includes bridge work and extending the A-40 between the A-55 interchange and Highway 157.

In the Outaouais region, north of Ottawa, Transports Quebec has allocated $192.8 million, $124.2 million of which is slated for new infrastructure work. Specific project details were not available at the time of the spending announcement.

The North Shore region is up for $106.2 million in spending, $66.7 million of which is for bridge, overpass and road upkeep. The Gaspesie-Ilesde-la-Madeleine region is getting $89.2 million, mostly for upkeep and improvements.

In related news Transports Quebec has formally assumed responsibility for the inspection, structural evaluation, repairs, replacements and ongoing maintenance for 4,281 bridges (the list runs to 128 pages) in 904 municipalities having fewer than 100,000 inhabitants. This is part of the business of making sure that no more bridges collapse for lack of funds for repairs or the hiring of the expertise necessary to ensure their safe condition and maintenance. Quebec will invest $100 million in their upkeep this year and next; 73 will receive structural evaluations.

The latest word on that list of 135 bridges and overpasses subject to structural evaluations is that 123 evaluations have been completed, 22 are operating under reduced load restrictions and three have been closed.

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