MONTREAL—For decades, impatient Montrealers have waited as piecemeal construction has slowly pushed a beltway around the island of Montreal. In five weeks, the final stretch of Highway 30 will be completed.

For commuters and truckers, the beltway will mean a faster route through Quebec by avoiding the congested city of Montreal. On-island drivers could also see less traffic. The company building the last section of Highway 30 promises the road will open before Christmas.

A public-private partnership, the final section is nearly 35 kilometres long with a major interchange, a tunnel and two bridges which combined are longer than the Champlain Bridge.

With no alternative around Montreal, the decades-old project has led to frustrated truckers like Barry Buntin, who say that nothing is worse than sitting in Quebec’s traffic.

“Just stop-and-go traffic all the time, construction,” said Buntin, anger clear in the Ontarian’s voice. “You're paid by the mile, you're not paid by the hour. If you're sitting in traffic, you're just sittin’ there losing money. To make money you gotta be puttin' the miles in.”

Denis Leonard, the spokesman for the Nouvelle Autoroute 30 consortium, said the Dec. 15 opening date is set in stone.

First conceived in the 60s, the beltway plan was advanced only a kilometre or two per decade. Montreal’s city administrators weren’t keen on the idea of traffic avoiding the island.

“I've always said that was very short-sighted. We were probably one of the only, if not the only major North American city, without beltways, which are now absolutely necessary,” said traffic expert Rick Leckner.

The change only came with the 1990 Oka Crisis, which drove home the point that a beltway was needed to take the strain of the island’s limited number of ageing connections.

“That showed how, unfortunately, we can be held hostage and I use that in every sense of the word,” said Leckner.

According to Buntin, the new highway will be a dream come true, and he expects Montreal’s traffic woes will improve.

“It will be better for us and on the Metropolitan it will be much better. Because all the guys are there in the morning, there are lines of trucks there in the morning,” said Buntin.

Most of Highway 30 will be free of tolls, but drivers who get on or off at the newest section in Vaudreuil-Dorion will have to pay, for truckers the price will start at $1 per axle. The money will be used to maintain the highway and generate a profit for the private company that built the road.

With construction starting on the Turcot interchange and the Champlain bridge, the timing couldn’t be better to keep some traffic off island.

“The design for the traffic is planned for the next 30 years, so it will be a highway that will not jam and keep it easy to bypass Montreal,” said Leonard.


Highway 30 map