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La Fontaine tunnel project delayed by a year; Quebec says work 'more complex' than expected

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The projected end date for renovations on Montreal's Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine tunnel will be postponed by a year — in 2027 — because the "work has been more complex than we expected," Quebec's transport minister said Friday.

"We have to change the ventilation towers and we didn't know that we had to but it turns out we have to. And [the] labour shortage, combined with issues regarding safety and health with the CNESST," are contributing to the delay, said Minister Geneviève Guilbault at a press scrum in Quebec City.

"So all of that forces us to postpone by a year so the tunnel should be in service again in fall 2026. Right now, we have two [lanes] toward north and one way toward south so there will be a change of direction in spring 2025."

The Ministry of Transport and Sustainable Mobility (MTQ) confirmed that the opening of the two tubes, which was scheduled for November 2025, is being pushed to fall 2026, with the completion date set for the following year. It said in a news release that damage to the ventilation towers was worse than previously thought and that workers will need to design, manufacture, and install 128 mobile panels. The towers are meant to deal with exhaust from traffic congestion or smoke from a fire.

Last August, work on the tunnel was paused for about two weeks after workers raised concerns about the presence of mould in the tunnel's service corridor.

"The department is aware that the prolonged duration of the obstructions will have significant repercussions on citizens, road users and businesses in the Montreal metropolitan region. The work is, however, essential to preserve this critical transport link," the ministry said in the release.

Guilbault also took the opportunity to criticize the previous Liberal government for not repairing the tunnel when they were in government.

"We are stuck in that because of the deficit of maintaining infrastructures in Quebec because when we arrived in 2018 there had been a lot of not maintaining our infrastructures. We saw it with the Pont Île-aux-Tourtes, we saw it with the Pont de l'île d'Orléans and so it turns out that we have to make urgent work that costs a lot of money and that we cannot postpone because safety is at stake," she told reporters.

Before the construction began, the tunnel was used by an average of 120,000 drivers daily. The construction project is the first major renovation project on the tunnel in nearly 60 years.

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