Starting October 31, commuters travelling from the south shore will need a lot of patience if they plan on using the Lafontaine tunnel.
Around 120 thousand commuters pass through the 55-year-old tunnel daily. With half the structure closing for necessary repair work Transport Quebec and both the Montreal and Longueil fire departments are preparing for worst-case scenarios.
“We put in place a fire unit intervention team that will be remaining stand by for the tunnel for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” said Patrick Gallagher a fire rescue unit councilor.
Only two lanes will be open towards Montreal and one lane heading to the south shore forcing drivers into a much tighter space than usual increasing the chances of accidents.
“We’re prepping the north tunnel so that those three lanes are divided by (markers) and they’re being anchored to the ground so they can’t move should there be a movement or should they be hit,” said Louis-André Bertrand, Transport Quebec spokesperson.
Chevrons are also painted on the ground 30 meters apart so drivers can better estimate how far they should be from the vehicle in front of them.
“That’s to lessen the chance of an accident of cars hitting each other because should that happen we expect major traffic and gridlock and possible we need to close the tunnel for intervention,” added Bertrand.
Six firefighters will be on call in the tunnel at all times and will have two special units to transport them to the site of the accident should there be one.
“Inside of each unit we have intervention equipment, we have breathing apparatus for the firefighters, we have extraction device if we have an accident,” said Gallagher.
Police will be on site for the first few weeks to help mitigate traffic, but Transport Quebec is urging commuters to ride share or use public transit and is providing free shuttles.
“From the free parking along highway 20, they will get you to Radisson station where we give you a free ticket to go where you’re headed and a second one to come back home,” said Bertrand.
The work is expected to take three years. Transports Quebec says it’s absolutely necessary to plan ahead of time. Commuters headed into Montreal should triple the usual time while heading back to the south shore, estimate it will take 4 times longer.