Working on the La Fontaine Tunnel until 2025: the MTQ will send you to hell

The disaster scenario for motorists that the Quebec Department of Transportation was determined to avoid for repairs to the Louis-Hyppolite-La Fontaine tunnel will materialize. One of the two circulation pipes completely closed until 2025.

“Renovating an old road infrastructure is a bit like renovating an old house. Sometimes we get very nasty surprises, and that’s the case here,” summarized Transport Minister François Bonnardel in a press release yesterday.

He appeared before journalists yesterday to announce very bad news: “There is 60% more destruction than expected at the tunnel vault,” he said, adding that the cost of the site has skyrocketed to 900 million. This colossal sum comes on top of the $1.4 billion that MTQ recently planned to spend on the project.

The work announced yesterday includes the renewal of the concrete slabs, the redesign of the service corridors and the addition of fire protection.

Three out of six lanes will be closed from November 2022 to November 2025. Two Montrealbound lanes remain open, while only one is South Shorebound.

“This is going to be stupid”

“I can’t imagine how stupid that’s going to be,” comments Patrick Benoît, the show’s traffic columnist. Hello Hellowhich underlines the importance of this connection for mobility in the metropolis.

Around 120,000 vehicles pass through it every day. The tunnel is also the most used crossing between the South Shore and Montreal for the transportation of goods.

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

According to our information, in 2011, when considering closure scenarios during the construction phase, the Ministry examined the option of completely closing one of the two circulation tubes for a longer period of time. This would have shortened the duration of the work.

However, according to a well-informed ministry source, this “catastrophic” scenario has been ruled out because of the “terrifying impact” on road traffic. MTQ had instead opted to keep two out of three lanes open in each direction.

The new plans correspond almost entirely to this hellish scenario.

Not surprising

If yesterday’s announcement came as a cold shower to tunnel users, it comes as no surprise to Richard Shearmur, director of the School of Urban Planning at McGill University.

Cost increases and the discovery of new damage “is almost systematic in large projects around the world,” he says, explaining that, among other things, initial estimates are rather overly optimistic.

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

The worst case scenario for trucking

The trucking industry, already impacted by COVID-19, delivery issues and staff shortages, now faces a perfect storm with the expanded rehabilitation of the tunnel, a major axis very close to the Port of Montreal.

Olivier Bourque, The Journal of Montreal

“I don’t think there could be a worse scenario. We are talking about severe restrictions that will drive up 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 is likely to be passed on to consumers.

“We must expect strong product inflation. Only in this sector does delivery take two to three times longer, especially up to the port of Montreal,” explains Mr. Cadieux.

“We tell our truckers to avoid peak times, but we don’t have a lot of time slots left for it to flow,” he laments.

$100 more per ride

For trucking specialist Benoît Therrien, President of Truck Stop Québec, transport costs will increase significantly.

“I think the companies need to charge $100 more per delivery for driver waiting costs to go to Montreal and head to the South Shore. There will be traffic jams for miles,” he explains.

The latter wonders about the management of the site by the Quebec Department of Transportation teams.

“I don’t understand why we didn’t anticipate that. We worked 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 said.

Not in Montreal

The industry fears that this brothel will increasingly deter truckers from coming to the metropolis.

“We survived the Turcot Interchange and the Champlain Bridge, it was a heap of rubble. Other works will also come, such as the Métropolitaine, which is in a very advanced state of disrepair. 30 isn’t over yet. We want Montreal to be an international city, we want to be an economic hub, but we have many obstacles to overcome,” believes Mr. Cadieux.

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