MONTREAL - Traffic on the westbound Ville-Marie Expressway is about to get a lot heavier, as tens of thousands of drivers who normally use the St. Jacques St. exit will need to find another way home as of Feb. 1, 2011.

With less than one week's notice, on Wednesday afternoon the city of Montreal announced the closure, along with the reduction to one lane of traffic in either direction on St. Jacques at the corner of Decarie Blvd.

Peter McQueen, N.D.G. councillor for the area, says the closure came as a complete surprise to him, and was not even discussed at a committee meeting last week.

"They did not say at that time that they were even contemplating closing the St. Jacques exit, and that was eight days ago," said McQueen.

Projected end date: June 24, 2011

The written news release from the city of Montreal says the closure of the St. Jacques St. exit will be in place until the spring, but does not offer a firm end date.

However when pressed, officials said the the contractor hired to perform the work has been given until St. Jean Baptiste day, June 24, 2011, to finish the task.

Alain Trudeau, a project manager for the City of Montreal, said coming up with ideas to deal with traffic flow while building the hospital was harder than initially thought.

"By the time we define the solution we arrived at, what, one week before, advertising... That we're closing," said Trudeau.

The job itself is relatively straightforward.

As part of the development of the MUHC superhospital, a new 4-metre sewer pipe has to be installed underneath Decarie Blvd., and it will have to be connected to an existing sewer system that runs underneath St. Jacques.

Because the dig will interfere with traffic on St. Jacques, officials are worried that if the exit remained open, cars will come to a dead stop on the Expressway.

Suggested detours

Motorists seeking an alternative route to the area are urged to use the Atwater Ave. exit off the Ville-Marie and taking St-Antoine St. westbound. This route would ultimately lead to the troublesome corner of St. Jacques and Decarie, so it would be wise to turn off on Glen Road before then.

Another suggested detour is to remain on the Ville-Marie to the Decarie Expressway's Cote St. Luc/Queen Mary exit, which is already regularly overloaded with traffic during the afternoon rush hour.

The announcement states that traffic the length of St. Jacques St. is expected to be slowed as a result of the construction work.

Finally, the area bordered by Prud'Homme Ave., Crowley Ave., and Decarie will be restricted to local traffic, though the businesses within that perimeter will remain open to the public throughout the work.

That area has been closed to traffic since Monday.

Prior to that, the Girouard Ave. access ramp to the 15 southbound and Ville-Marie eastbound was also closed to traffic, with that stretch of Girouard being converted from two lanes of one-way traffic to one lane in either direction.

This story has been updated from its original version.