MONTREAL, Que. – Hot on the heels of a transportation study addressing the growing transportation problems between Montreal and the South Shore region, federal and provincial ministers announced their joint commitment to fund the completion of the A30 ring road, with a scheduled finish date of 2009.
The chances are good that the ring road, which will divert through traffic off the Island of Montreal, will be tolled, but at the right price tolls will be cheaper than the cost of fuel, wear and tear and wasted log book time carriers endure on the Island of Montreal. The Quebec Trucking Association, which has long supported completing the A30, has announced it will be vigilant in making sure that the tolls are fair.
Currently, the A30 starts in Sorel, follows the St-Lawrence River upstream along the South Shore, crosses A20 and A10, ends at the A15 in Candiac, starts up again in Sainte-Catherine and finally fizzles out in Chateauguay. For decades the plan has been to continue the A30 west to Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, across the St-Lawrence and link it up with the A20 in Vaudreuil-Dorion at Highway 540, a few kilometres west of the Island of Montreal.
To complete the A30, Quebec will fund a four- or six-lane divided highway between Candiac – Sainte-Catherine section, to be built over the existing Highway 132.
Now that the A30 ring road looks as though it will be completed, it remains to be seen what will be done with the recommendations contained in the Final Report: Consultation Committee On Improving Mobility Between Montreal And The South Shore, a 237-page document released on Feb. 27.
Recognizing that the South Shore region is growing rapidly and that the current infrastructure linking it to the Island of Montreal is inadequate, the Report considers several ways to improve the flow of traffic. One option is to create a reserved lane on the Honore Mercier bridge for buses and trucks.
Simulations show that travel time would be improved and that a number of trucks presently taking the Champlain Bridge from the South Shore to Montreal Island industrial areas would switch to the Mercier bridge.
There are several ideas for how to deal with the Champlain Bridge, which runs the risk of significant damage from overuse in the next decade. In 2000, Michel Fournier, president of the Jacques-Cartier and Champlain Bridges Incorporated said, “Within five years, the Champlain, Jacques Cartier and Mercier bridges will be completely saturated. Rush hour on these bridges will be up to eight hours a day. This means that a significant portion of Montreal’s economic activity will, for all intents and purposes, be paralyzed.”
One proposal would see the construction of a large tunnel under the river, with a price tag of $884 million, with lanes for trucks and buses. Another popular idea with Transports Quebec is to upgrade the ice bridge, which is a hundred or so metres upstream of the Champlain bridge, to carry bus and possibly truck traffic, or possibly a light rail transit line. The price tag, depending on the improvement option chosen, could be $300 million.
Another proposal, which Transport Minister Serge Menard wasted no time booting to some future generation of Quebecers, is a toll bridge across the St-Lawrence between the A30 at Varennes, roughly 20 kilometres east of the Lafontaine Tunnel, and Highway 640. Not only would this create a beltway around the island, it would be an alternate crossing for trucks carrying hazardous materials.
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