Quebec’s new transport minister tours La Fontaine tunnel days before closure set to begin

Click to play video: 'Quebec’s new transport minister tours Lafontaine tunnel days before chaos set to start'
Quebec’s new transport minister tours Lafontaine tunnel days before chaos set to start
WATCH: It's one of the major arteries on and off the island of Montreal, and starting Monday Oct. 31, the Lafontaine tunnel will undergo 3 years of closures for urgently needed repairs. Quebec's new transport minister toured the site on Thursday, encouraging commuters to take public transit or carpool while the work is underway. Global's Amanda Jelowicki reports – Oct 27, 2022

South shore commuters are gearing up for traffic chaos and disruptions that will last three years, when much-needed work on Montreal’sLouis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel begins on Monday.

The province is spending $2.3 billion to fix the crumbling, decaying tunnel that dates back to the 1960s. The province is tackling the work in two parts. The first part will see the three-lane southbound side of the tunnel completely close. The incoming three-lane side will have two lanes reserved for oncoming traffic, and one lane reserved for southbound traffic.

“Of course I am concerned, this will be a huge challenge,” said newly-appointed Transport Minister Geneviève Guilbault. She visited the tunnel Thursday morning, on the eve of its closure.

Guilbault  said she recognizes it will be difficult for commuters to adapt to the new challenges. But she said the government is taking multiple measures to help mitigate the ensuing traffic problems.  She said government employees should start telecommuting again, and encouraged employers to allow workers to work from home if they can.

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Guilbault urged commuters to start relying on public transport instead of turning to their cars to access the island. She said the government has created several parking lots on the south shore where commuters can leave their cars; there will be extra cars on the metro’s yellow line, and additional buses added to existing routes. She also said people should start car pooling if public transit was not an option.

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“I think come Monday people will see when there is intense and huge traffic in the tunnel, they might be convinced to take another solution,” Guilbault said. ‘We have to do this work, we would have preferred not doing it but we have to do it if we want the tunnel working for the next decades.”

Guilbault, however, stopped short of enforcing a ban on solo driving during rush hour, despite calls from leading figures to do so. Montreal mayor Valerie Plante implored the government to restrict solo drivers, and Michel LeBlanc, the head of Montreal’s Chamber of Commerce, also advised the measure. The Montreal Trucking Association, too, calls for a ban on solo drivers.

Despite the entreaties, Guilbault says she does not believe an enforcement is necessary for now, but could change government policy if necessary.

Quebec’s Trucking Association has warned Quebecers the partial closure of the tunnel could lead to severe supply chain delays. It has asked the government for exclusive hours to use the tunnel just for trucks, and an easing of limits on its weight restrictions.

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“The actual measures are obviously not sufficient,” said Marc Cadieux, the president of the Quebec Trucking Association.  “We are looking at an increase of load capacity, we are looking at an increase of over 20 per cent.”

Cadieux said his association was still in discussions with the government as to his industry’s concerns.

The government, however, indicated it may not be ale to meet all of the Association’s demands.

“We are already close to the maximum weight allowed for the infrastructure to remain in good condition. so if we increase the load 20 per cent for thousands of trucks every day, there might be some side effects on our infrastructure,” said Jean Sequin, the deputy transport minister.

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