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Roads safe, Quebec insists

 

AMY LUFT, The Gazette

Published: 7 hours ago

 

Quebec's Transport Department wants drivers to know the province's highways are safe, despite a metre-wide pothole found on the Turcot Interchange.

 

Still, the road damage reminded some that action needs to be taken quickly to ensure the safety of motorists.

 

"It definitely enforces the point that structures are in bad shape," said Laval Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt, head of a coalition that wants better funding of infrastructure in Quebec. "The bridges won't be demolished tomorrow, but we need to make sure what remains is not in a beautiful state but in a solid state."

 

Engineers have confirmed that the pothole discovered Friday on Highway 15, just north of the exits for Highway 20 and the Ville Marie Expressway, was simply the result of deteriorating asphalt and concrete and was not a structural issue, like those plaguing many Quebec roadways.

 

"Of course, we'd like to reassure people of the safety of the Turcot Interchange," Transport Quebec official Nicole Ste-Marie said. "What happened (Friday) was not related to roadwork on other access ramps."

 

Highway 15 through the Turcot Interchange was reopened to traffic at 7 a.m. yesterday after overnight paving between the exits for Highways 20 and 720 (the Ville Marie Expressway) and the Décarie Expressway.

 

Two lanes were closed about 8:45 a.m. Friday when a motorist drove into the pothole, which ran one metre deep straight through the span. The lanes were shut for about five hours.

 

One lane was shut again Friday afternoon because repairs could not be completed.

 

Structural repairs are to begin tomorrow on 10 of the 12 access ramps to the Turcot Interchange. The work had already been scheduled this week to take advantage of reduced traffic during Quebec's construction holiday.

 

Highways 15, 20 and 720 converge on the Turcot Interchange, which carries an estimated 280,000 vehicles every day.

 

As for the rest of the province's highways and structures, Ste-Marie urged motorists not to worry. "We'll eventually be doing some repairs (to structures), but if there's a problem or safety concern, Transport Quebec never neglects to tell the public."

 

Vaillancourt said he is satisfied with the measures being taken to maintain the overpasses before they are replaced or repaired.

 

"I've discussed the issue with engineers and I've been reassured the upkeep is good," he said, adding that rebuilding the spans "is not going to happen overnight."

 

Vaillancourt is head of the Coalition pour le rénouvellement des infrastructures du Québec. Its members include the provincial federation of municipalities, the Conseil du Patronat employers lobby, and industry and professional associations.

 

Repairs are to continue as planned on the rest of Quebec's troubled overpasses.

 

After the collapse of the de la Concorde Blvd. overpass in Laval in September 2006, which killed five people, and the subsequent inspection of 135 overpasses deemed to be in questionable condition, Quebec has budgeted $2.7 billion for roadwork this year. The lion's share is to be spent to repair or replace overpasses. It's part of a four-year, $12-billion investment to upgrade Quebec's crumbling infrastructure.

 

Transport Quebec said in April the province would replace 25 overpasses and tear down three others. Major repairs on 25 more spans began at that time.

 

At least three of the overpasses to be replaced are in Montreal. They include two on Highway 138 over Monette St. at the Mercier Bridge, both scheduled to be replaced by 2013, and one on Gouin Blvd. over Highway 19, to be replaced in 2009.

 

The Dorval Interchange is to be torn down, though no date has been set. Transport Quebec wants to assure drivers the span is well maintained.

 

"While it will eventually be demolished, right now we are doing sporadic repairs ... to make sure safety is maintained," Ste-Marie said, adding the Dorval Circle is to be reconfigured to ease traffic woes in the area, not because it is unsafe.

 

As for the current state of Quebec's overpasses, Vaillancourt said he's a little nervous, despite the progress.

 

"It's easy to know when there's a hole in the pavement, but it's hard to know when a bridge will collapse," he said.

 

"You never know."

 

aluft@thegazette.canwest.com

 

http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=b45ac453-fbf9-45aa-8380-c55e10568c42&p=2

 

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