MONTREAL, Que. – Forty-four years after construction began on Quebec’s Autoroute 30, the final section, the 54-kilometre ring road around the west side of the Island of Montreal, opened for traffic Dec. 15. Drivers now have a speedy alternative to the badly congested Island routes.
The Canadian trucking industry will reap many benefits: Shorter trip times will improve carrier productivity. Drivers will not burn up hours-of-service sitting in traffic. Owner/operators will log money-paying miles instead of sitting in traffic. Fuel consumption and wear and tear will decrease. Trip schedules will not have to be padded to accommodate delays.
For carriers running long combination vehicles, the dream of an unbroken divided highway from Halifax to Toronto is now just a few sections of the 185 between Riviere du Loup and the New Brunswick border short of coming true.
The achievement surely rates as Canada’s most significant highway project since the Confederation Bridge. Oddly though, Transports Quebec and the Nouvelle Autoroute 30 Consortium, the private partner with an enormous investment to recoup, have been borderline somnambulant about publicizing it. Last summer’s Festival de Jazz got tons more buzz.
Here are some clues to its existence: Eastbound truckers should look for signs announcing the new A-30 exit just outside Vaudreuil-Dorion, just west of the Island. Hang a right onto the A-30, drop $0.75 per axle at the 12-gate tollbooth and steam along without a care for just over an hour until you pick up the eastbound A-20 heading to Quebec City.
Westbound truckers approaching Montreal on the A-20 can, as they always have, catch the old A-30 a few kilometres shy of the edge of the city. Now though, instead of popping out behind Brossard, the A-30 keeps going. There are no grand “Toronto” signs; rather, trust that signs for the A-30 and Vaudreuil-Dorion (wherever that is, some might wonder) will point you toward the Pacific Ocean. Admire the city skyline from a distance.
“If you aren’t stopping in Montreal, you will certainly take the A-30. It will save an enormous amount of time,” says Martin Boivert, owner/operator and president of the Association des Routiers Professionnels du Quebec.
The ring road replaces several traditional, agonizing routes across the Island, such as the A-20/Lafontaine Tunnel/A-25/A-40 and the A-20/A-30/A-10/Champlain Bridge/A-20 and the 132/Mercier Bridge/A-20.
Curious about travel times and distances, I sampled the ring road and one Island route. Both start where the old A-30 crosses the inbound A-10 a few kilometres shy of the Champlain Bridge, and end at that new interchange near Vaudreuil-Dorion.
From the A-30/A-10 intersection, it took me 43 minutes to tour 63 kilometres along the ring road to where the interchange pours traffic onto the A-20.
It took 44 minutes to drive the 56 kilometres from the interchange back across the Island, across the Champlain Bridge and to my starting point at the A-30/A-10 intersection.
The tied travel time is deceptive. Truckers can be virtually certain of doing the ring road in three-quarters of an hour. I crossed the Island on a quiet Jan. 2 when Quebec was still in bed nursing a hangover, but the drive regularly takes 60, 90, 120 minutes – the transit time is a crapshoot.
“I’ve had guys tied up for four hours in Montreal,” says Gordie Atwood, recruiter and safety coordinator, Eassons Transport in Berwick, N.S. “It’s not just rush hour, but it’s accidents that are the hold-up. I have looked at the driving time, but even if the saving is just an hour, it is enough to get into our Mississauga terminal and rest. Our drivers are saying they are going to save some time. We are excited about it.”
That said, carriers are squinting down their sights, angling for the best shot through or around town.
“We will have to look at the cost savings, the economics of it. There will be days and times of the week when you will probably want to utilize (the ring road), others when you won’t want to. A lot of our major traffic flow is to the Island, but for any of our lanes where we go east of the Island, or travel the Metropolitan (the A-40), I can foresee us using it,” says Bob Halfyard, director of safety, Challenger Motor Freight in Cambridge, Ont.
Robert Transport, located a kilometre from a traditional Island crossing via the Lafontaine Tunnel and the Metropolitan, has pulled out the stopwatches to help it wring the best transit times out of the road options.
“We have a squad here doing an analysis of all our movements; for example, before nine o’clock and from three o’clock to seven o’clock. We are looking at what the best route is for us,” says Jean-Robert Lessard, vice-president, marketing and public relations, Robert Transport. “We have to think of fuel consumption, brakes, lost time in traffic, driver stress – there are a number of elements. Dispatch will decide, according to the time of day and the traffic. We are very positive about (the ring road).”
Lessard raises an interesting point about how customers might view the situation. “Just-in-time customers will put pressure on carriers to use the A-30 to save fuel and reduce GHG.”
Speaking of customers, Bill Cornelisse, operations and sales manager, Anderson Haulage in Gormley, Ont., says his will happily absorb the $80 per axle toll charge for taking oversize loads over the ring road.
“We use the 407 toll road in Toronto and pass the cost along to the customer. They don’t mind. The customer wants the load on time, safely. I always look at the liability. Is my risk taking a load through Montreal more than taking the ring road? To keep the truck out of the city and on an open, wide road is a lot less liability,” he reasons.
The Quebec Trucking Association (QTA) reports that the tolls for trucks are not ruffling feathers, as long as they do not spike.
“So far the comments about the toll are that they seem reasonable, but also, people are saying, ‘Be a good watch dog, QTA, so we don’t relive what happened on the 407’,” says Marc Cadieux, director general of the QTA.
“The position of the QTA in recent years is that if the infrastructure is for fluidity and if there are alternatives, then tolls should exist. Operationally and cost-wise, we should be recouping the costs in saved time. And with the Turcot Yard construction (on the A-20 near the Champlain Bridge) coming up, it would have been chaotic. Imagine if we did not have the A-30?”
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