The MTQ sends you to hell

The MTQ sends you to hell

and Jean-Louis Fortin MISE À DAY

The catastrophic scenario for motorists that the Quebec Ministry of Transport wanted to avoid at all costs for the repair of the Louis-Hyppolite-La Fontaine tunnel will materialize. One of the two circulation tubes will be completely closed until 2025.

“Renovating old road infrastructure is a bit like renovating an old house. Sometimes we have very bad surprises, and that's the case here,” Transport Minister François Bonnardel summed up yesterday in a press release.

He appeared before journalists yesterday to announce a very bad news: “There is 60% more degradation than expected at the vault of the tunnel,” he said, adding that the costs of the site exploded by 900 million. This colossal sum is in addition to the $1.4 billion that the MTQ recently planned to spend on the project.

The work announced yesterday includes redoing the concrete slabs, redeveloping the service corridors and adding fire protection.

Three out of six lanes will be closed from November 2022 to November 2025. Two lanes heading to Montreal will remain open while only one will lead to the South Shore.

“It's going to be stupid”

“I can't even imagine how stupid it's going to be”, comments Patrick Benoît, traffic columnist on the show Salut Bonjour, which emphasizes the importance of this link for mobility in the metropolis.

About 120,000 vehicles travel there daily. The tunnel is also the most used crossing between the South Shore and Montreal for the transport of goods.

The monster tunnel construction site has been in the planning stages for more than ten years. When announced in 2019, it was expected to cost 500 million and be finalized in 2024.

According to our information, in 2011, when the ministry was considering closure scenarios during construction, it assessed the option of completely closing one of the two circulation tubes for an extended period. This would have reduced the duration of the work.

However, this “disaster” scenario, according to a well-informed source at the ministry, had been ruled out because of the “appalling impacts” it would have on road traffic. The MTQ had instead chosen to keep two lanes out of three open in each direction.

The new plans correspond almost in every way to this hellish scenario.

Not surprising

While yesterday's announcement had the effect of a cold shower on tunnel users, it came as no surprise at all to Richard Shearmur, director of the School of Urban Planning at the McGill University.

Cost increases and the discovery of new damage, “it's almost systematic on major projects all over the world”, he says, explaining that initial estimates tend to be too optimistic, among other things.

According to him, this story should push the ministry to deepen regular inspections of its infrastructure. 

The worst-case scenario for trucking 

The trucking industry already affected by COVID-19, supply issues and staff shortages is now facing a perfect storm with the extended rehabilitation of the tunnel, a major axis located very close to the Port of Montreal.

Olivier Bourque, Le Journal de Montréal

“I don't think there could be a worse scenario. We are talking about strong constraints that will increase our costs even more,” believes Marc Cadieux, CEO of the Quebec Trucking Association (ACQ).  

According to him, transportation costs have more than doubled in recent years and the bill will likely be passed on to consumers. 

“We can expect strong inflation on products. In this sector alone, it takes two to three times longer to deliver, especially to get to the Port of Montreal,” explains Mr. Cadieux.  

“We tell our truckers to avoid peak periods, but we don't have many traffic windows anymore,” he laments. 

$100 more per trip

For trucking specialist Benoît Therrien, president of Truck Stop Québec, the increase in transport costs will be substantial. 

“I think that companies will have to charge $100 more per delivery for transportation waiting for the driver, to go towards Montreal and towards the South Shore. There will be traffic jams for miles,” he explains. p>”I don't understand why we didn't see this coming in advance. We have been working on the site for several months. Is there a pilot on the plane? If it had been a few months, but now it's three more years,” he says. 

Not in Montreal

L he industry fears that this brothel will increasingly discourage truckers from coming to the Metropolis. 

“We lived through the Turcot interchange and the Champlain Bridge, it was a shambles. Other works will also come, such as the Metropolitan, which is in a very advanced state of deterioration. 30 is not over. We want Montreal to be an international city, we want to be an economic hub, but we have a lot of obstacles to overcome,” believes Mr. Cadieux.  

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