Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine tunnel: Quebec has no idea of ​​the costs of congestion

Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine Tunnel: Quebec Has No Idea Of Costs ts congestion

MISE À DAY

Quebec has not estimated the costs of road congestion for the L-H La Fontaine tunnel work, which will not be completed before 2025 and which will cause major traffic jams.

The costs of traffic congestion include greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and other pollutants emitted in traffic jams. Added to this are the costs associated with motorists being late for work, wasted gasoline or even accelerated vehicle wear (tires and repairs), in particular.

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“The Ministry (of Transport) has not made this assessment”, indicates its spokesperson Gilles Payer. 

According to him, GHG emissions will depend on the “response” of people to different “plans B” at their disposal, in particular public transport or teleworking. The government says it is investing more than $150 million in traffic congestion mitigation measures.

The ministry adds that it has worked for “several years” to integrate these measures.

Figures of… 2008

Over the years, studies have assessed the costs of road congestion in the Metropolis. The latest available estimates date from 2018. It was a report by the firm ADEC Advisors produced for the city of Laval and whose total costs were estimated at $4.2 billion.

This report was in fact an estimate based on an assessment by the same firm carried out in 2014 for the MTQ, but with 2008 data. At the time, congestion was estimated at $1.8 billion and Montreal monopolized more half of the pie.

These studies do not detail the impacts for each infrastructure.

In the past, the MTQ carried out a study on the costs of congestion every the five years. By comparing data from 1993 and 2018, it is calculated that the costs of congestion in the Montreal region have increased by more than 500%.

“We do not want don't know”

“The methodology is improving from year to year, which may explain some discrepancies, but the trend is clearly upwards and it is growing much faster than GDP,” explains to the Journal > the president of Adec Advisors, Gilles Joubert, which has since become Gilles Joubert Conseil.

“It's normal, there is no new infrastructure built and public transport projects have been delayed, so it's not subject to improvement,” he adds.

Mr. Joubert regrets that the latest precise data dates from 2008.

“There doesn't seem to be an appetite for knowing the new reality of congestion and especially the costs […] maybe we don't want to know,” he said. This surprises me and saddens me a little. »

Carbon neutrality objective maintained

Even if the works of the Louis-Hyppolite La Fontaine tunnel are much more important expected, the MTQ assures that the site itself will be carbon neutral.

That is, trees will be planted or carbon credits purchased to offset the GHGs emitted during construction. 

Vehicle traffic and congestion are not included in this calculation and continue to represent a very real source of pollution.

The tunnel construction site is one of the 7 carbon-neutral projects planned by the ministry over the next few years. To date, only the Turcot interchange worksite has been carbon neutral in Quebec.

“Since the start of the work 18 months ago, [the responsible consortium] RLF has counted 4,500 tonnes of CO2 equivalent”, specifies Gilles Payer, spokesperson for the ministry. 

This is the equivalent to the GHG emissions of around 2,000 cars over a year.

Plant trees

To offset these emissions, it would already be necessary to plant around 31,500 trees, according to an offset calculator from the Carbone boréal research team at the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi. The consortium could also buy carbon credits from a green project.

“If the construction site lasts longer, which will be the case, then the compensation will simply be adjusted accordingly”, specifies Mr. Pay.

GHG offsetting is more complicated than it seems. As Le Journal demonstrated last year, the carbon neutrality of the Turcot interchange is problematic. It will take a century for the 51,000 trees planted or soon to be planted to actually offset the emissions emitted during construction.

In theory, carbon credits contribute to the reduction of GHGs, because they are purchased from projects that produce renewable energy, such as a wind farm or a reforestation project, for example.

In the case of the Turcot interchange, most of the compensation was made through the purchase of credits from a hydroelectric power plant project in India which caused several environmental damages, Le Journal had revealed.