- After the good news that the Turcot Interchange had opened its first new ramp, Montreal commuters were filled with hope.
- That hope was quickly dashed after the government announced new work planned for the Ville-Marie Tunnel.
- The work is slated to take 10 years to complete, devastating any and all drivers who frequent the Autoroute 720/Ville-Marie Expressway.
News broke recently that the Ville-Marie tunnel was going to be getting some work done, starting next year. Just as we've finally made it through the worst of the Turcot Interchange construction, we're being forced to reconcile with the fact that this is Montreal and construction is never over.
But what's worse, the initial projections are indicating that the work will require 10 years to complete... a full decade.
And while I hate to be a Debbie Downer (cue sound FX), I can't help but worry that a 10-year timeline in Montreal construction terms could mean... 12... 15... 20 years? Who really knows.
For those of us that don't often drive in Montreal (because who needs that kind of PTSD?) the Ville-Marie Tunnel is the underground part of the Autoroute 720/Ville-Marie Expressway west of Saint-Urbain, which is when the autoroute sneaks above ground until Hôtel-de-Ville. The underground section after Hôtel-de-Ville is called the Viger Tunnel, though usually people just call the whole thing the Ville-Marie Tunnel.
What's extra fun about this new bout of construction is the fact that we just started to see the end of the Turcot Interchange reconstruction, which is the western end of the 720.
So, those commuters that rely on the Ville-Marie Expressway to get them to work and home again every day, who thought that the end of the Turcot work meant the end of their heinous commute, now have ten more years of construction to look forward to.
The announcement of the work was initially met with complete disbelief by Montrealers who, as mentioned above, though that the 720 was reaching the end of its milestone construction for at least a little while.
The tunnel, which was built in the 1970s, has been fraught with issues of unstable infrastructure over the years, including two instances, in 2011 and 2014, where pieces of concrete fell from the tunnel. The latter incident actually resulted in a smashed windshield, as the concrete hit a moving vehicle.
In both cases, the tunnel remained open afterwards.
So, it's no real surprise that the Ville-Marie tunnel has become a bit of a joke to local commuters that frequent the tunnel and can appreciate what a mess it is.
Which creates an interesting dynamic, where there's no denying the tunnel needs work, but at the same time there's no denying we're completely fed up with the construction and we'd do anything to have just one year where there wasn't a major traffic artery being torn to shreds.
Just one year.
Which isn't to discount the good work that has been done on the Autoroute 720 up to this point, including the exasperating work that is finally coming to an end on the Turcot Interchange.
The completion of the Turcot Interchange will actually change the nature of the 720, making it no longer an Autoroute and instead will be considered a national highway. When this happens, the A-720 will officially be known as Route 136.
Cause that's not confusing or anything.
But, of course, even with all the griping, there's no denying the ancient tunnel needs work. Just ask these two Twitter users below, who are more than a little unsettled every day during their commute, seeing the missing tiles on the walls.
I personally can't stand to drive through the tunnels in this city for fear that one little crack is going to have us all underwater.
Plus, driving in Montreal on normal roads is traumatising enough, so doing it underground and in the dark is just more than a girl needs while moving 50 km/h surrounded by 2000 pounds of metal, y'know what I mean?
Reports from CTV also indicate that in addition to the work on the tunnel, there will also be significant closures on St-Urbain and St-Laurent to accommodate the work.
We're really in for it with this one, Montreal.