Has the hour of the brown cabins on the edge of the motorway come? Quebec is investing 150 million to modernize its network of roadside rest areas, commonly referred to as “brown shacks,” by 2027. These rest areas have been “lacking for love” in recent years, admits Transport Minister François Bonnardel.
Posted at 10:46 am
Updated at 11:32 a.m
“If there’s one thing that hasn’t made me particularly proud of touring Quebec’s road network over the past few years, it’s the famous brown cabins. Our roadside rest stops haven’t seen much love in the last few decades. […] It’s over, the brown booths in Quebec,” declared Mr. Bonnardel during a press conference held in Montreal on Monday.
Criticism of rest areas in Quebec is not new. Seen by some citizens as shabby, simplistic or downright “shameful”, they have been the subject of government engagements on a number of occasions in recent years, particularly among the Liberals and the PQ. Problems with access to drinking water or uncleanliness have also damaged their reputation in the past.
If all goes well, Quebec’s proposed new rest areas will each include “modern” sanitation, including a nursing room and changing table. Games for children, Wi-Fi zones and charging stations for electric vehicles will also be set up.
We also want to offer areas equipped for people with reduced mobility and “facilitate the movement of goods” with stopping areas that are “easily accessible” for truck drivers. The Quebec Trucking Association (ACQ) has also been demanding better facilities for its members, such as showers, a sufficiently large parking lot and an increased level of security, for years.
“Our association welcomes Minister Bonnardel’s announcement. This investment is the result of several consultations with our group to make rest areas in Quebec more adapted to the needs of truck drivers and safer. The modernization of these facilities will improve the services offered and the car park, especially for large avenues, ”reacted Monday the President of the ACQ, Marc Cadieux.
Priority sites have already been identified, such as Lac-Pythonga on Route 117 or the Jardins-de-Napierville rest area in Saint-Bernard-de-Lacolle. Work at these two sites is scheduled to begin this summer. These future stations will be open all year round.
By the end of 2022, Quebec also wants to start work on the Notre-Dame-de-Portage rest area on Highway 20. Works on the roadside rest areas in Sainte-Anne-du-Sault, de Curtis, des Hurons, Sainte-Madeleine, La Durantaye, Monadnocks or even Kamouraska should start by the end of 2023. Two roadside rest areas have already been “upgraded” and give an impression of the Quebec plant, namely those of Villeroy and Point-du-Jour, in Lavaltrie.
A total of six major roads should be affected by these renovations: the 15, 20, 50 and 55 freeways, and the 117 and 389 roads, in addition to other national roads in rural areas.
No new areas in sight
110 million flow into the modernization of the stops of the “border network”, which includes in particular motorways and main roads around the big cities. A sum of 32 million will also be reserved for roads in rural or remote areas and 8 million for relay villages. “We are talking about an ambitious plan. The brown signs will also be replaced with blue signs which will announce these future stops,” Mr Bonnardel said.
For now, however, Quebec has no plans to build more roadside rest areas as the government wants to focus on renovating them first. Ultimately, our hope is that a safe and modern stop will be available every 30 minutes throughout Quebec’s road network.
Many stakeholders were consulted ahead of the process, authorities say, including the Fédération des Villages-Relais, local Aboriginal communities, various trucking associations, the Hydro-Québec Electric Circuit and the Organization Kéroul, as well as affected towns and regional tourist associations.
Tourism Minister Caroline Proulx welcomed the announcement by her CAQ colleague in a press release, believing that these modernization works “will greatly boost the development of tourism in our regions”. “The brown cabs on our motorways will be replaced with modern, safe and attractive buildings for the benefit of the citizens,” she certified.